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PRINT EDITION
Goodfellas story parallels Cherry's life
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By WILLIAM HOUSTON
whouston@globeandmail.com
  
  

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Friday, October 17, 2008 – Page S2

If you liked Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, you might be interested in what Tim Cherry has in mind for a biopic about his father.

A CBC movie on Don Cherry's life in hockey could begin production in June of next year.

And what does Cherry, the Hockey Night in Canada commentator and former minor-leaguer, have in common with the thugs in the Scorsese mob flick?

Those immune to Cherry's charm might say quite a bit.

Tim, who is producing the movie and wrote the script, saw something else.

"Surprisingly, I feel that the story is pretty close to Goodfellas," he said. "You have Henry Hill in this crazy world of the mafia. In dad's case, it's the crazy world of the minor leagues.

"And you have Henry Hill's wife who kind of marries into it and has to adjust to it. Mom [the late Rose Cherry] had to do the same. She had never been to a game before she met dad. There are a lot of similarities to the two stories."

There are certainly parallels in terms of the workplace. The minor leagues, when Cherry played, were extraordinarily violent and also populated by kooks, such as Eddie Shore, who, in addition to owning and operating the Springfield Indians, imposed medical treatments on the players.

"Hockey was brutal back on those days," Don Cherry says. "One night, I'm in a fight with a guy and somehow my thumb got stuck in his mouth. And he was literally trying to bite my thumb off. There was blood all over the place.

"As for Shore, he used to snap our necks, like a chiropractor. After a while, you couldn't walk. Everybody calls him eccentric now. I call him nuts."

The drama of the Cherry story would also include the tough times that Don and Rose endured. When his playing days ended and before he started coaching, he was unemployed for a long period of time and refused to accept help.

"I had some pretty dark days," he said.

If everything goes well, the production will wrap up later this year and a two-part miniseries will air in the spring of 2010, before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome.

A professional screen writer will need to polish the script. Tim handles Don's media ventures and produces the annual DVD, but is new to script writing. The plan is to tell the story in two parts. The first would be about Cherry's minor-league days. The second would involve his NHL coaching years, ending with his move into broadcasting.

A period piece, running from the 1950s through to the early 1980s, is expensive, especially over four hours in a two-part series. Tim figures the budget will be in the $10-million range.

And who would play Cherry?

"We were kicking around names," Tim said. "We're looking for a Canadian actor who kind of looks like dad, looks like a hockey player, skates and has the bravado of dad. We had a couple of casting calls, but it's probably going to be somebody the Canadian public doesn't really know well. We're not really looking at getting Brad Pitt. But dad tried."

Sportsnet drew 264,000 viewers for its telecast of the Philadelphia Phillies' Game 5 clincher against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night. Fox earned a 6.3 overnight rating (percentage of U.S. households tuned in), down 33.7 per cent from the comparable baseball playoff game on Fox last year (Game 5, Boston Red Sox-Cleveland Indians.) The Fox telecast was up against the third and last U.S. presidential debate, which earned a combined rating of 36.2.

TSN's telecast of the Montreal Canadiens' home opener on Wednesday night, against the Boston Bruins, was watched by 508,000 viewers, up 37 per cent from the comparable telecast last season (Edmonton Oilers-Minnesota Wild). The Edmonton Oilers-Anaheim Ducks game, which followed and was joined in progress, drew 345,000.

Sportsnet signed a two-year agreement with LiveHive Systems, the software company based in Waterloo, Ont., to include a viewer interactive platform to its regional NHL telecasts.

The Canadian Olympic Committee isn't the only national sports body pursuing an amateur sports channel. The U.S. Olympic Committee plans to launch a 24-hour network that would "air competitive events, archival footage, human-interest stories and maybe even reality shows or Olympic-themed movies."


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