We Are Don Cherry’s Raccoon

by J.R.

This morning on Twitter, Don Cherry, The Seventh Greatest Canadian of All-Time, rolled up the sleeves of the circus tent he was wearing to tell us a tale of what it’s like to be The Seventh Greatest Canadian of All-Time.

It took eight tweets to relate this story — if you’re interested in primary sources, by all means, check his feed — but here it is all together and without the pesky ordinal numbers:

urlI was driving along in our neighbourhood and I see a white van and it’s an animal control guy and he gets out with a raccoon in a cage. He lets the raccoon out and the raccoon runs away. Evidently, he gets pad (sic) for removing the raccoon from one neighbourhood to let him find a new home in another. So I stop and say to the guy “hey don’t let that raccoon go in a neighbourhood. Take him to the woods. He’ll go into one of the houses.” He pays no attention to what I said but starts yelling “Don Cherry, Don Cherry, I see you on tv all the time. “Yeah, that’s great” I say “but don’t let anymore raccoons go in our neighbourhood.” Still he doesn’t pay attention yelling “Don Cherry, Don Cherry, I am getting a camera” He keeps hollering my name . Now a jerk in some Volvo pulls up behind me, stops and starts honking his horn at me. A tanker can get by, but no, he sits there and continues to honk the horn while the animal control guy is taking pictures shouting my name. How did I get myself into this situation? When will I lean (sic) to mind my own business?

Alright, cool story, Grapes, even though it’s a lot like that stupid ditch-digger story politicians tell that is more or less about how cool the teller of the story is.

But here’s the thing — the story isn’t about Don Cherry being inconvenienced in an improbable way.

This is a story about Conference III.

Let’s meet the antagonist of this story. It’s not the animal-control guy; it’s Procyon lotor, the common raccoon.

raccoonsThere’s science out there that says but for their tiny hands, non-opposable thumbs and short lifespans, it would have been raccoons and not apes which evolved into the Earth’s sentient species (NB: This science may exist only in my brain). Raccoons are smart little critters. This was the source of Don’s concern.

Once, on a camping trip, we made some cobbler in a big, cast-iron Dutch oven. We knew there were animals about — this is Tennessee, after all, and the raccoon is our state animal and they co-exist with humans pretty much everywhere — but the lid on this sucker was bigger than a dinner plate and probably weighed 10 or 15 pounds, so we just left the lid on the dirty Dutch oven, thinking we’d tackle the exhausting but necessary cleaning in the morning.

About 3 AM — 3 AM camping time, which means it was probably 10:30 PM — we hear a metal-on-metal noise. Shining the penetrating beam of our flashlights into the primordial darkness of the forest, we peered through the opening of our tent to see a big male raccoon literally sitting in the Dutch oven, holding that huge heavy lid with one hand and scooping out cobbler detritus with the other. He turned his head and gave us the most devastating, deflating “Can I help you?” look ever cast from animal to its superiors on evolution’s ladder.

In addition to that resourcefulness and guile, raccoons have the clannish attitude that misfits everywhere seem to have. Hearing raccoons fight is nearly as terrifying hearing raccoons, um, make more raccoons. These raccoon families just maul and bite and claw at each other. But try to mess with one raccoon and see what happens — they emit some kind of subsonic raccoon signal (NB: This science may only exist in my brain) and suddenly, all of the raccoons in a five-county radius are closing in on you and you can’t identify the little rascals, because they are all wearing masks.

They are crafty little scrappers that, apparently, Don Cherry has no need for in his neighborhood. Sound familiar?

Raccoon Invasion!1

‘Sup, Grapes?

Don Cherry is the example par excellence of the worst kind of hockey person: the kind that doesn’t think anyone outside the tiny geographic radius he’s drawn deserves to watch or play or enjoy the game. Of the seven cities in Conference III, a generous estimation would figure Grapes would be OK with teams in Winnipeg, Chicago and Minnesota. Obviously, Nashville and Dallas are out as being too Southern. Colorado is too far west and has legal pot, which Don is definitely not going to countenance. St. Louis was founded by the French, so they’re out, too.

Hell, Don’s probably suspicious of the Jets as still infected with the stench of Atlanta. Minnesota’s probably too new for him, as the Wild haven’t been in the league since before Confederation and he finds the lack of an S on the end of that name as a little too NBA. Chicago is alright for now – Original Six and all – but what if the ‘Hawks knock out some Good Ontario Boys in the playoffs? The way Grapes would tell the story, Illinois might as well be Puerto Rico.

As we explained to Cheer The Anthem, Conference III exists not only because of Red Whinging but because the NHL had to throw together these teams it couldn’t put anywhere else. Like it or not, we’re stuck with each other.

We’re going to fight and claw and steal people’s trash (that’s a metaphor for David Poile’s waiver wire addiction, by the way).

Wouldn't get too close, Anaheim.

Wouldn’t get too close, Anaheim.

We’re going wound and bloody one another.

But remember this: Don Cherry doesn’t want us around. He’s afraid of what might happen if we infest his heavily-manicured, carefully-constructed gated community.

He doesn’t want to come home to see us, sitting in his Stanley Cup, scooping Chicken Vesuvio or Denver omelets or Texas barbecue or Jucy Lucy or hot chicken or toasted ravioli or smoked goldeye out of his precious relic.

But let’s do it anyway. Let’s stick together when we have to and fight when we must and let’s aim to forever ruin Don Cherry’s day and the days of everyone who thinks like him.

Let Conference III be the raccoon that got released recklessly in Don Cherry’s neighborhood.