Hockey Music in Canada

Cam Lindsay details the unique musical history behind the NHL’s Canadian teams

Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) Broadcast Intros from 1977 to 2015

The Hockey Theme

There is no song recognized more by hockey fans for its contribution to the sport’s culture than “The Hockey Theme.” Originally commissioned by the CBC for its weekly program, Hockey Night in Canada, the theme song was written by composer Dolores Claman and orchestrated by Jerry Toth. To Canadians, it is so ingrained in their daily lives that many regard it as our second national anthem.

But it goes even deeper than that. According to its creator, “The Hockey Theme” is even played at funerals and weddings, and while ringtones were big business, at any moment in any place in Canada you could hear multiple phones ringing out the tune. Unfortunately for the fans of the original though, over its 48 years, the theme has lived a complicated life. First there are the many inferior versions re-recorded and passed off as “new and improved” modernizations, including updates by famous Canadian acts like Rush’s Neil Peart and the Barenaked Ladies. And secondly there was the controversial decision by Claman and the publisher to sell the song to CTV in 2008, taking it away from the CBC after 40 years, and stripping it of its seemingly permanent bond to Hockey Night in Canada. To the fans that love it though, it will forever live on as a fixture to how Canadians devour their national sport.

Monster Truck - The Enforcer

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs have a rich history with in-game music, and it really starts with organist Jimmy Holmstrom, a 28-year veteran who oversees the organ, sampler and goal horn during every home game. It’s thanks to his enthusiasm that the relentless “Go Leafs Go” chants can be effective even during the team’s most miserable of times. The club plays a range of popular music, but the Buds love to represent the city’s talent: from Kardinal Offishall’s T-Dot-repping “The Anthem” in pre-game warm-ups, to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” during a break in play to get the crowd amped, to the Tragically Hip’s “Courage,” when they concede a goal.

The Hip are obvious sentimental favourites, but if there’s one song of theirs that has the deepest ties to the team it’s the Hip’s “Fifty Mission Cap,” which ruminates the death of late great Leafs defenceman Bill Barilko.

Goal song: A few years back, the Leafs adopted “Let’s Shake” by Hamilton punk legends Teenage Head, which is about as good as it gets for goal celebrations, and last year they endorsed the Sheepdogs’ “Feeling Good.” But currently they’re going with another Hamilton band, Monster Truck, and their arena-ready, goon-celebrating anthem, “The Enforcer.”

Stick and Punk feat. Diane Bibaud and Fucked Up | Red Bull Music Academy

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal has a long-standing tradition of writing love songs for its hockey team. In fact, you can buy an album of them on iTunes, if you like. And the Canadiens often repay the favour by playing some of them during games. The tradition carries on in 25-season organist Diane Bibaud, who with one rousing version of “Olé, Olé, Olé” or “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” can send the opposing team packing with their tails between their legs. During games, the Canadiens play the usual bangers by U2, Van Halen, AC/DC and Rage Against The Machine, but they champion unique favourites like Steel Dragon’s “Stand Up” (from the Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star) and Belgian wonder Plastic Bertrand’s new wave hit, “Ca Plane Pour Moi.”

Goal Song: Francophone hip-hop group Loco Locass wrote “Le But (Allez Montreal)” specifically for the Canadiens, and it’s been their goal song since 2013. But prior to that the team used, peculiarly used “The Age Of Pamparius” by Norwegian deathpunks Turbonegro for their celebrations.

Edmonton Oilers 2015-2016 Goal Horn

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers have a very cool musical history. Organist Gordon Graschuk is a lifelong Oilers fan, who attended both the team’s first game in 1973, as well as Wayne Gretzky’s debut in 1979. He got the job in 2011 – 27 years after he first auditioned for it. In 1979, obscure Canadian composer Claude Scott released a 7” single for RCA called “The Edmonton Oilers Theme Song” featuring him blowing a trumpet on the cover. In the 1980s, the Oilers celebrated goals by playing American producer Meco’s disco-fied version of “The Empire Strikes Back Theme.” And last season a local Aboriginal group the Logan Alexis Singers wrote and performed a traditional song celebrating their love for the team. They weren’t invited inside Rexall Place to perform it, so they did it outside the night the star Connor McDavid made his return.

Goal Song: This season the Oilers introduced “Stab” by Thee Attacks as their new goal song. Over the last few years the Oilers have switched it up on a season-by-season basis. Most recently it was Metric’s “Stadium Love,” and prior to that it was Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop The Party” and the Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy.”

Calgary Flames 2015-2016 Goal Horn

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames hold a unique edge over all of the NHL teams: they made their own music. The 1986-87 team released a single called “Red Hot,” with a video starring players like Lanny McDonald, Mike Vernon, Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, and Joel Otto singing. It is a thing of beauty and still a fan favourite. Long-time organist Willy Joosen joined the Flames in the 1988-89 season, the one and only year they won the Stanley Cup. Joosen has earned a following for his insistence on playing the Legend of Zelda theme during games. Along with local musician David “The Flamin’ Fiddler” Glowasky, Joosen formed the Calgary Flames Duo.

The Flames are so beloved in their city that in 2015 the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra reworked Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” to fit the team’s line-up at the time. During games, the Scotiabank Saddledome is often ringing with classic and riff-ragin’ alt-rock, but during power plays, expect to hear hyped EDM anthems like Swedish House Mafia’s “Greyhound” and “Clap” by Dannic vs Tom & Jame.

Goal Song: For the time being, it appears the Flames will continue to celebrate goals with “Righteous Smoke” by Hamilton’s Monster Truck. But previously they’ve used AC/DC’s fitting “Shot Down In Flames” and Duck Sauce’s “Barbra Streisand.”

Vancouver Canucks 2015-2016 Goal Horns (Almost all of them)

Vancouver Canucks

Since 2000, Mike Kenney has been the organist for the Canucks. In 2011, during a game in the team’s deep playoff run, he got to live out a lifelong dream and perform hockey staple “Pump It Up” with its creator Elvis Costello. The team has a great forgotten moment in music history with the release of “Canucks (We’re With You),” a little known single by a musician named Don Cook. During power plays, the Canucks rely on Wolfmother’s “The Joker & The Thief” to help them out.

Goal Song: Last season, the Canucks introduced personal goal songs for each player. Some examples include LMFAO’s “Yes” for Alex Burrows, the Hives’ “Tick Tick Boom” for Alex Edler and Green Day’s “Holiday” for Henrik Sedin. In the preseason this year, however, the Canucks were using DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s hyped track “Turn Down For What?” to celebrate scoring. And in previous years, they went to U2’s “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” and curiously, heavy funk metal band Clutch’s “Electric Worry” for goals.

Ottawa Senators 2015-2016 Goal Horn

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators paid local musicians to write them a custom theme song to use for entrance music. When they replaced it in 2008 with hard rock band Rev Theory’s “Hell Yeah,” fans wasted no time protesting the decision and not long after the team gave in to the pressure and brought back the theme. Organist Greg Drover is best known for his timely rendition of The Simpsons theme as the Senators and Canadiens retired into the dressing room after a game in 2013.

When they joined the NHL in 1992, Ottawa became the first team to play the Canadiana classic “The Hockey Song” by Stompin’ Tom Connors – a surprising fact considering the song was originally released 19 years earlier.

Goal Song: In their first regular season game of the season, the Sens revealed that Blur’s hyped-up classic “Song 2” will play when they score (the team previously used the song back in the 2011-2012 playoffs). In preseason games this year, they used Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” for goal celebrations, and last year went with “Break Away” by CFO$, which you may also recognize as the theme music for WWE star Adam Rose. The Sens are one of the few teams that post their in-game playlists on their official website.

Winnipeg Jets 2015-2016 Goal Horn

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets returned to the NHL in 2011 after a 12-year stint as the Atlanta Thrashers. ‘Peggers clearly loved their team, which they demonstrated by uploading a number of original and parody songs to YouTube. Organist Trevor Olfert is a rookie in the 2016-17 season, and with him comes a long-awaited, brand new organ, recently installed at the MTS Centre for Jets games.

When the team wins at home, they savour the moment by playing the Rockin’ 1000 cover of Foo Fighters’ “Learn To Fly.” The Jets have an understandable fondness for Elton John’s hit “Benny & The Jets”; not only did they blast it at the final home game in 2011 before the team headed south to Atlanta, but they named their original mascot Benny in its honour. The Jets have perhaps the strangest musical legacy of any team in the league thanks to Swedish prog rocker Blomman, who in 1978 released an album remarkably named in honour of the team: Om Jag Lira Munspel I Winnipeg Jets.

Goal Song: The Jets once used Van Halen’s “Jump” as their entrance music, and once they ditched it a petition was launched to bring it back. It appears that the team was listening, because they’ve promoted “Jump” to the new goal song. Previously they celebrated with the Isley Brothers’ timeless “Shout” and before that, Rev Theory’s “Hell Yeah.”

Quebec Nordiques Goal Horn 1991-1995

Quebec Nordiques

Although there has been some discussion and plenty of petitions to have the Quebec Nordiques return to the NHL, it appears that for now fans will have to keep supporting the Colorado Avalanche, where the team relocated in 1995. But there is still some good musical history to the team. There have been quite a few tribute songs commercially released: Richard Adams’ 1972 single “Les Nordiques (C'est Notre Équipe À Nous),” Mario Chénard & France Duval’s undulating, synth-y 1985 single “Nordiques jusqu'au bout!”, which comically sampled some actual hockey sounds for effect, and Le Zoo’s rousing 1987 anthem, “Let’s Go Nordiques.”

Goal Song: The most iconic song the Nordiques celebrated with was Gary Glitter’s sporting classic “Rock and Roll Part 2,” but the team customized it with a remix that cut the goal horn into that iconic rhythm section. It’s pretty awesome. Before that, there was also an imposing yet rather distressing goal horn that featured yet another original song called “Let’s Go Nordiques.”

By Cam Lindsay on October 13, 2016

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