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Cherry: Small players won’t be in NHL in five to 10 years

May 26, 2014, 11:04 PM EDT

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Three Getty Images

Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens is listed at 5’9″ and has been a pest for opposing players and goaltenders throughout this Stanley Cup playoff run for the Habs.

Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers, well, he’s been an emotional rallying point for his team in the days after the sudden and tragic passing of his mother. He’s only listed at 5’8″. He scored on a perfect wrist shot to lift his team to an overtime victory on Sunday, and a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final.

Yet, could small players soon be a thing of the past? Don Cherry of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada seems to think so – his reasoning has to do with bodychecking rules in certain provinces of Canada. (You can view Hockey Canada’s recent change to bodychecking rules by clicking on the link.)

“I’m going to tell you why there won’t be guys like that in the National Hockey League I would say in five to 10 years and that’s a sad thing for me to say,” Cherry said Sunday, as per the Toronto Star.

“Watch these little guys … see how they twist and turn … see how they roll off, see that there … and they don’t get hurt?”

Gallagher is among a group of smaller players that has managed to succeed in the NHL, as well as other levels in hockey growing up.

“One of the biggest reasons was my dad, who would always tell me my size was my advantage, so I never looked at it as a disadvantage,” Gallagher recently told Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star. “I heard people say it, but I never really believed what they were saying, so I couldn’t really have a chip on my shoulder.

“I’m not going to play like a bigger player; I play like I’ve always played.”

  1. Professor Fate - May 26, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    There will always be a place for small, quick, elusive players.

    • aldog83 - May 27, 2014 at 2:59 AM

      Even in the NFL there are small player that make an impact.

      Special athletes make it regardless of size.

      • pjblake2redwings - May 27, 2014 at 8:58 AM

        when Don Cherry dies it will be a great day for hockey..

    • dueman - May 27, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      pjblake2redwings – Only a real a$$hole would say something as ridiculously stupid as that.

  2. Moop - May 26, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    It’s dumb that they’re getting rid of bodychecking for that age group in Canada (USA Hockey has already done so), but I don’t think that it’s going to necessarily prevent smaller guys from making it to the NHL. If they have the drive and talent of these smaller players (such as St. Louis, Gallagher, even Johnny Gaudreau who will be breaking into the league next season) they’ll figure out how to avoid or take hits at some point along the road.

    • matt14gg - May 27, 2014 at 7:13 AM

      “Moop” – As a long time youth hockey coach I could not agree more. In USA Hockey they allow hitting starting with bantams, which is akin to allowing a person who has never driven a car to take his first spin on the Autobahn…absolutely ridiculous. Would you rather see kids learn the proper way of delivering (and receiving) a bodycheck when they are Mites (travelling about 1/2 mile an hour), or when they just had their first big growth spurt and are travelling like an out of control car?

      As far as smaller players, the league is going to start slowing the game down through the neutral zone, because that is where the most devastating, out of control (head trauma inducing) bodychecks take place. If they allow a small amount of clutching and grabbing to slow down the neutral zone the smaller players are going to be in trouble. Just look at the NHL in the 1980’s, when clutching and grabbing was the very heart of the game…there were very few little guys because they could not stand up to the physical nature of 80’s hockey.

      • cliffatola - May 27, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        As a USA Hockey official, I agree with a portion of your statement but in all honesty they need to reintroduce the checking at a younger age and for travel teams only. There is a huge difference between bantam rec and bantam travel teams and they should be treated accordingly. You cannot teach a bantam age player who has never played before how to play the game effectively, deliver a hit properly and how to protect themselves from getting their clocks cleaned, in my opinion it is like finding out a kid who is about to graduate from high school is almost illiterate it is too late to correct the problem so they make the best out of it.

      • Moop - May 27, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        I’ve always thought they should teach kids how to hit at the mite level, where, as you said, the kids aren’t skating fast and are largely all the same size. That way they won’t be hurting each other. At the bantam level, there are just some kids who are a lot larger than everybody else and they use this newfound size advantage to just crush anyone wearing a different sweater than them, and its usually through dirty checks. A ton of these kids just seem like they’re out there to hurt somebody.

    • dueman - May 27, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      Obvbiously there will be exceptional players that will find a way no matter what, but this change is definitely going to affect the number of smaller players that make it to the NHL. Instead of making a change to the rules like this one, which will probably be scrapped in a couple years when they see kids quitting or getting hurt because of it, they should change the rules so that the leagues can force kids that are bigger, or better for their age into the levels that they should be playing in, whether their parents like it or not. This way, there are no bigger kids skating around smashing the little kids, and the kids aren’t getting hurt. It would also help the big kids, in that they would be playing against proper competition.

  3. isphet71 - May 26, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    What a moronic statement. There will ALWAYS be small elusive guys that will know how to get out of a check.

    I didn’t start playing rec league hockey until my mid 20s, I am a little guy, and I never take clean hits. Rolling off and not taking the brunt of the damage is something that just comes naturally to a lot of guys. I sure as heck didn’t learn how to “dodge checks” in juniors…

    • dueman - May 27, 2014 at 10:01 AM

      It’s not a moronic statement at all. You are taking what he said far too literal. There will always be exceptions, but what he is saying is that, with this rule change there are going to be a lot of smaller 12 year olds that are going to quit because, they are going to go into their first year of bantam and get rocked by some big 14-15 year olds who have been throwing checks for 2-3 years, while the 12 year kids have never been checked before. Of course some will be able to take it, but more won’t. Things don’t always come natural to everyone.

  4. isphet71 - May 26, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    And another thing; if you are a 6′ 5″ guy and can’t take a hit, you will barely be any better off than a 5′ 9″ guy that can’t take a hit. How’s that size thing working out for Pronger, Lindros, Primeau, etc etc etc? Big guys need to know how to “not take a hit,” too. Maybe even more so than the little guys since it’s generally easier to dodge a hit if you are smaller.

    • hockeyflow33 - May 26, 2014 at 11:44 PM

      Being big was clearly an issue for Lindros. He loved skating with his head down watching the puck.

    • flyerspsu - May 27, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Pronger’s career ended as a result of a high stick to the eye and Primeau’s ended from an illegal elbow to the head

      • cliffatola - May 27, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        When Primeau’ had his career ended it was still a legal hit and it was legal until Matt Cooke destroyed Marc Savard which was well after Primeau retired.

  5. arrow43050 - May 26, 2014 at 11:37 PM

    Can someone please lock Don Cherry away for, like, ever? Please? He really needs to stop embarrassing himself and hockey since he rarely says anything of substance any more–only things designed to be controversial so he can then take up the argument and show how much of a genius he, regardless of little things like, you know, facts.

  6. c9castine - May 26, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    don cherry is a moron.

    there are different types of players. guys like st. louis and any other 5’10 or under player succeed because they are hard to hit, fast, skilled, and driven.

    that wont ever change.

    • nflnhlrulznbasux - May 27, 2014 at 7:07 PM

      He’s not saying there will be ZERO.
      There are what, 50 small guys in the NHL (half play for the Habs)?
      In a few years, there will be 20 or 10 or whatever fewer number it’s eventually gonna be. That’s what he’s saying. Does everything have to be so literal for morons like you?

      • c9castine - May 27, 2014 at 11:49 PM

        ” there won’t be guys like that in the National Hockey League I would say in five to 10 years”

        you call me the moron but im pretty sure he says right there there WONT BE GUYS LIKE THAT IN THE NHL before long.

  7. shamu1the1whale - May 26, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    Here’s another article on the subject: http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/2014/05/26/don_cherry_predicts_little_guys_wont_play_in_nhl_in_five_years_blames_minor_hockey_ban_on_bodychecking.html

    They include an interesting quote from D. Briere:
    “I think where you are smaller you grow up like that,” Briere told the Star. “It’s not something you change overnight; I think you have to learn that style and that way early in your career. It’s not something that one day you get to the NHL and you’re smaller than everyone and you have to change your style. It happens over the years.
    “You find ways to fight through that. And the guys who can’t do that, usually they disappear before they get to the NHL level. They either have to stop, or they don’t want to keep taking a beating. You’ve got to be fortunate to squeeze through all those cracks and stay alive.”

    What do people think?

  8. billiam55 - May 27, 2014 at 12:12 AM

    don cherry is an idiot. and dont even get me started with that stupid montreal tie he wears.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - May 27, 2014 at 4:10 AM

      Don Cherry is a brilliant and incisive man. I mean, he strongly supported Rob Ford for mayor of Toronto, and that could not possibly have worked out better for the city. I mean, among foul-mouthed, drunken, crack-smoking city leaders, no one tops Ford.

      • storminator16 - May 27, 2014 at 7:15 AM

        As long as they both have “plenty to eat at home”, I guess.

  9. dontbsuchapuss - May 27, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    Who the hell cares what that moron says he is an idiot and always will be

  10. brandotho - May 27, 2014 at 1:01 AM

    Mats Zuccarello is 5’7″ and listed as 179 lbs, and he was the Rangers’ leader in points this year. He’s 26, so he has a whole career left ahead of him.

    • dueman - May 27, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      You do realize that Zuccarello is never going to have to go through peewee hockey again right? This article is about future NHLers, not guys that are already there.

  11. muckleflugga - May 27, 2014 at 1:44 AM

    cherry’s argument players have to be taught to take and deliver hits at a young age in order to prepare them for advancement to professional hockey is just simple-minded stupidity … carried upon need to fill otherwise dead air on hockey night in canada

    cherry would have us believe all the medical science and research suggesting percussive forces experienced in growing bodies contributing to long-term damage is smoke and mirrors … need for practical hitting experience to displace need for common sense it would seem … but what would a bunch of researchers or doctors know that don couldn’t trump with hot wind and bravado

    talk about hockey theology past its sell-by-date …?

    cherry would also have us believe adolescents moving into young adulthood are somehow past an age when they can be educated and trained into proper hitting technique, giving or receiving … this when the human physiognomy is maturing and strengthening and capable of handling those percussive forces safely …

    and at an age when player growth and size gives them a better means to develop technique appropriate to proportions they’ll present when reaching major junior hockey and beyond

    what i would like to see is cherry, for once in his life, counter science with hard research proving young players not exposed to education and training for hitting before twelve, are somehow at a physical or intellectual disadvantage to those who are, once they get to the professional game

    still, you have to feel for cherry and his colleagues in a ridiculously long season … caught grasping for talking points in a season pretty much exhausted for original ideas

    hence, the recent flourishing of numbers-based hockey analysis … the hockey world only recently discovered john maynard keynes and george william james it would seem

    talk about bulls hit by the shovel full

    • nflnhlrulznbasux - May 27, 2014 at 7:08 PM

      Does anyone even read your posts?

  12. 19to77 - May 27, 2014 at 1:53 AM

    And let’s not forget Patrick Kane, reigning Conn Smythe winner, is all of 5’11 and 180 pounds. Not quite as small as the others mentioned in this thread, but in no way a big, hard-hitting player. Still doesn’t stop him from producing.

    • dueman - May 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      You’re not understanding the article. This has nothing to do with guys that are already in the league. How does a change to peewee hockey today affect Patrick Kane, or any other NHLer for that matter? This is about how a change in peewee rules will affect future players.

      • matt14gg - May 27, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        As usual people are arguing their own point instead of the one being made by the article. What’s especially laughable is people arguing a point based on having watched the game for probably about 5 years max. I remember hockey in the 80’s very well. The game was a LOT slower, because they allowed guys to interfere (clutch and grab) pretty liberally. It was a game of giants and there were very few small guys in the league (THAT’S NOT TO SAY THERE WERE NONE!).

  13. flyboystransport - May 27, 2014 at 1:58 AM

    Didn’t he say this in 95 too and was wrong?

    • nflnhlrulznbasux - May 27, 2014 at 7:10 PM

      No

  14. rushledger - May 27, 2014 at 4:55 AM

    Hopefully in much less time than that don cherry will be out of the NHL with his opinions that are simply just said to create controversy with no real basis.

    • storminator16 - May 27, 2014 at 7:17 AM

      Exactly. With that said, I think hockey actually needs him spouting crap every 5 seconds. We’ll miss him when he goes because some other guy will just come along trying to do what he does but do it worse. Glen Healy is biding his time….

  15. papajack1259 - May 27, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    I always wanted to see under 5’4″ guys play in their on league. Dwarf Hockey could be entertaining. Cherry got his name where he wanted it right in the press.

  16. barkar942 - May 27, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Cherry: “Small players won’t be in NHL in five to 10 years”.
    Neither will old guys who wear old clothing from Liberace’s estate sales.

  17. tved12 - May 27, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Since the US has had these rules in place already, are there any stats or facts to back this up? Are we seeing more kids quit hockey at 13-15 because they don’t want to take hits any more?

    I don’t agree with Cherry here, I don’t believe this is going to stop kids from playing. I grew up in MN and we didn’t start hitting until we were 11. I didn’t see many kids quitting at that point so I’m going to guess that people who have played their whole lives aren’t going to just up and quit.

  18. djshnooks - May 27, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    Don Cherry is a fool.

    There was always a place for Theo Fluery.

    There will always be a place for small guys like Gallager and Tyler Ennis.

    Go home Don, you’re drunk!

  19. banger60 - May 27, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Thank you Hockey God!

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