Every time Don’s Cherry Pickers hit the ice they turn a few heads.
“Other teams say, ‘Those are some ugly jerseys,’” Don’s Cherry Pickers team member Matt Cantrell said. “We’re like, ‘Well, you’re about to get beat by some guys in some ugly jerseys.’”
The team wears red, plaid tuxedo jerseys, reminiscent of hockey commentator Don Cherry’s stylish garbs.
“The jerseys are a symbol of us,” Cantrell said. “It’s a fun jersey, we’re a fun team. The jersey is obviously not a serious competition jersey and we’re not really a serious team. Nobody makes more fun of us than we do. That’s part of the fun, picking on each other.”
Don’s Cherry Pickers play out of the Knoxville Adult Hockey League in Tennessee and are all about fun. Looking good is all part of the act.
The team purchased the tuxedo jerseys at the start of the fall 2015 session.
“When we got them,” team captain Adam Scott said, “I told the team, ‘Look, we only have one of two options: We’ve got to be really good and win all of our games, or we’ve just got to be complete clowns and almost lose all our games. You can’t be middle ground in these jerseys.’”
Well, Don’s Cherry Pickers started out the winter season with a 6-1 record, so the team is having fun and also winning some games.
“We said, hey, we’re going to have fun and if we win, that’s just icing on the cake,” said Cantrell, who is 30 years old. “So that’s kind of been our mindset from Day 1.”
This is the first year the team has been named Don’s Cherry Pickers after four years as the Toros. Team members made the change after some players left and there was a mix and match of old jerseys. A new identity was in store.
The team — which plays in all four of the league’s sessions each year — had some success as the Toros, winning the league championship the first year it was formed and also the final session it played in 2015.
Once players get on Don’s Cherry Pickers roster, they generally stay because they have so much fun. There are eight original members left — including Cantrell and Scott — and the guys say it’s important to have the stability of the core players on the team.
“We want the same guys,” Scott said. “At our level of hockey and when you’re playing adult recreation, that’s what it’s really about, the guys. It kind of becomes a family away from home. That’s why you show up. You get a sweat, but it’s all about being with the guys.”
If a player happens to leave Don’s Cherry Pickers, the team is happy to add lower-level players who come out of the development league or are new to the league to give them a place to play.
“There’s other teams that every time they’re looking for a free agent or a free agent comes in, they basically interview them and want to see if they moved down here from Michigan so they can get a ringer,” Scott said. “We just don’t care. We’ve got a spot and somebody fills it. ‘Hey, do you like to have a good time? Can you take a joke? Jump on the ice, if you’re not that good, we don’t care.’”
Since Don’s Cherry Pickers play in the C2 League, the experience on the team, even from the original members, is at more of the beginner to less advanced stage.
“It’s guys that are kind of on this journey to learn hockey,” Scott said. “We’re in a weird area, it’s Tennessee. You’re not born talking about hockey. We all played baseball, soccer and football. These are a bunch of guys that fell in love with hockey somehow and decided to give it a try. We’re all in our 30s trying to figure out how to skate.”
The team is a mix of 14 players who range in age from a teenager — who is the only girl on the team, and her dad also plays — all the way up to the 50-year-olds.
“It’s a lot of fun, and we want people to enjoy it,” said Scott, who is 35. “We kind of tell people, ‘If you get all worked up and aggravated about something in a C2 hockey game, you probably need a life assessment.’”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.