Don Cherry in Morgan Rielly’s corner on crosscheck on Sens hot-dog Ridly Greig

Morgan Rielly may be pleased to learn that on his crosscheck on a showboating Ottawa Senator that could get him suspended, he’s got the Coach in his corner.

“I say he’ll get two games,” Don Cherry said Sunday on his Grapevine Podcast, with his son Tim and daughter Cindy, following the Ottawa Senators’ 5-3 win Saturday night over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Time will tell what the NHL decides when they hold a hearing for the Maple Leafs defenceman on Tuesday, but Cherry said when Ridly Greig took a slapshot into the empty net to ice the win for the Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre in the capital and rub salt into the Leafs’ wounds, he broke an unwritten NHL code about showing up a team when they are down.

“I am glad Rielly was on and I’m glad he did it,” said Cherry, the former coach of the Boston Bruins and longtime star of Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada. “I know there is no rule in the book that says you don’t do that but you just don’t do that.”

Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs stands over Ridly Greig of the Ottawa Senators after being cross checked in the head following his empty net goal at Canadian Tire Centre on Feb. 10, 2024 in Ottawa.
Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs stands over Ridly Greig of the Ottawa Senators after being cross checked in the head following his empty net goal at Canadian Tire Centre on Feb. 10, 2024 in Ottawa.Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography /Getty Images

Rielly certainly didn’t like it. After Greig wound up for empty-net slapshot, Rielly give the rookie a two-handed crosscheck that appeared to hit him on the face and head before Greig doubled over on the ice.

Cherry pointed to the unwritten rule that you don’t ‘spike the football’ in hockey. He raised the question of what was going through Greig’s mind and why he did it.

Grapes, who also had Rielly’s back when his playoff goal was called back against Florida last spring, has a theory.

“I think the reason he did is because the Leaf fans were going ‘Go Leafs Go’ (in Ottawa) and that’s why he did it.”

Certainly the arena seemed to be filled with a majority of Leafs Nation. Grieg was making his point that the home team was going to win this round of the Battle of Ontario.

Veteran Rielly made his own statement.

“It was a spur of the moment thing,” said Cherry.

While he thinks NHL disciplinarian George Parros will hand out a two-game suspension, and not six games as many pundits say, he did add that Rielly “used the stick” as part of his retribution though he said, “I think he meant to get him in the shoulder but he got him on the back of the neck.”

That said, Cherry took a little dig at Grieg when he teased, “He laid there pretty good.”

Ouch. Times two.

It’s great to hear Don’s perspective because as Tim said, “Everybody wants to know what you think.”

That’s why he should be back on Hockey Night in Canada!

Maybe even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford agree – since Grapes said he received notes for his recent 90th birthday from both. “I want to thank everybody for their kind wishes,” Cherry said.

Incidentally, Grapes also picked the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. But it was his take on the Rielly incident that people were curious about.

My feeling was it was an illegal, dirty play that could have hurt Grieg who didn’t break a rule and can score anyway he chooses. I also noted the Leafs didn’t show this kind of fire in the belly when the Bruins’ Brad Marchand tripped Timothy Liljegren can opener-style into the boards in November or last year when Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett put rookie Matthew Knies out of the playoffs with a concussion.

But as Grapes has explained — the Leafs players and coaching staff talked about that lack of response and vowed to never let that happen gain.

Whether it’s on the Michigan-style lacrosse-like goals where players put the puck on the blade of their stick and fling it into the net or an over-the-top celebration of a goal that embarrasses the other team, Cherry says on the ice, the players don’t like that kind of one-upmanship.

And you pay a price if you decide to do something like that. Greig paid that price. Rielly may as well in terms of games and salary missed and perhaps a fine.

If Cherry had a say in it, Rielly would be back in the lineup on Saturday, Feb. 17against the Anaheim Ducks.

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