HALIFAX - They're dedicated, supportive and among the only people brave enough to touch stinky equipment: hockey moms.
And they're also on the top of Don Cherry's list. The colourful hockey commentator was in Halifax on Wednesday to pay tribute to the sport-loving mothers, whom he said are "the greatest people in the world."
"I played in the American Hockey League where the guys are the toughest guys in the world, grizzled old guys, and they call for their mothers (when they're injured)," he told some 200 Maritime moms and hockey-playing children who packed a hotel ballroom for a luncheon.
"And you should hear them say, 'mom, mom.' It's really something with the mothers."
The moms were selected by their provincial hockey associations to attend the event.
Hockey mom Valerie Donovan said there's a tremendous amount of support among mothers whose children are involved in the sport.
The Glace Bay, N.S., woman said the support was especially meaningful since the death of her husband two months ago.
"He was a great hockey dad, so it's been hard," said Donovan, who sat at the head table with her young son and Cherry.
"You always feel a certain connection with the other moms because they're the ones that are up early, trying to keep the house (organized), work full time and be the hockey mom."
Ryan Mitchell of Cole Harbour, N.S., attended the luncheon with his mother, but meeting Cherry was the highlight of the 11-year-old's day.
Moments after getting Cherry's autograph on a jersey, Ryan summed up the experience as "just awesome."
"It was great. I love watching Don Cherry on TV after hockey games," he said grinning. "He's just as I thought Don Cherry would be."
Sporting one of his trademark high-collared shirts and bright red jacket, Cherry told the crowd stories of his own mother and his days as a teenaged hockey player.
"I remember I was going away to Barrie (to play with the Flyers) and we had old gloves with holes," he recalled.
"I remember my mother going and getting me new gloves. I was the only one with new gloves."
Cherry, who also signed some autographs and posed for pictures, said hockey moms are constantly making sacrifices for the sake of their kids.
"They wear their cars out going on tournaments. They can't take vacation if they play organized hockey because it's so expensive," he said after the event.
"They just sacrifice their time. It's tough. Three practices a week. A couple of games. Their whole life is there."