12 essential hockey songs that aren't "The Good Ole Hockey Game"

by Mark Teo

April 3, 2013






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The venerable Stompin’ Tom Connors, who passed away last month, wrote the best hockey song you can name. There’s no disputing it. Still, “The Good Ole Hockey Game” is but one of many songs that pay tribute to Canada’s national sport. (Yes, yes, we know that curling technically owns that distinction too, but, like, who has a song about curling besides the Constantines and the Weakerthans?)

So, in honour of today’s NHL trade deadline—an exciting day for even the most casual fans—we assembled 12 of our favourite musical tributes to God’s game.

The Weakerthans—“Elegy For Gump Worsley”

Leave it to John K. Samson to draw greater meaning from the game. His tribute to legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender Gump Worsley, from 2007’s Reunion Tour, celebrates the sport’s populist base: Worsley, Samson says, “looked more like our fathers,” drank and smoked, and proudly carried a beer gut. The song’s most moving moment, however, was in its final line, where he uses an actual Worsley quote as a metaphor for working life, anxiety, and so much more. That line? “My face was my mask.” Deep, buds!

John K. Samson—“ www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle”

More literal than “Elegy Gump Worsley,” this track’s title is the URL of an actual petition campaigning for the Hockey Hall of Fame induction of former Philadelphia Flyer Reggie “The Riverton Rifle” Leach. (Its chorus, too, is dead serious: “We the undersigned put forth his name / To the Hockey Hall of Fame.”) For good reason— Leach, beyond putting up Hall-worthy goalscoring stats, was also a First Nations player who came from meager origins. Again, Samson uses a hockey player to illustrate larger (and populist) concepts: It’s the idea that the game can belong to anyone, even if they’re from a tiny Manitoba village. The pride of Morweena, Leafs goalie James Reimer, surely agrees.

Arrogant Worms—“Me Like Hockey”

Caveman gang vocals. A driving, tom-heavy backbone. No, it isn’t a Mongoloids B-side (but it could be). Here, one of the most true, tender, and earnest tributes to the game. We’re tearing up a little, here.

Subplot A—“Hey There, Iginla”

Subplot A isn’t exactly a Calgary music scene mainstay—he is, according to his site, an eye surgeon who wrote an album to impress his girlfriend. Nonetheless, he scored an improbable viral hit with “Hey Iginla,” an over-earnest tribute to the Flames recently traded ex-captain. But startlingly, it touches on all the emotional sweet spots: It’s funny. (“Hey there Iginla,” he sings, “the economy is in trouble now and Calgary’s got some layoffs, yes we do. But we don’t care, ‘cause we have you—and oil.”) It’s unabashedly Western—“if you played on the Maple Leafs,” says the song, with only a hint of Napoleon Complex, “You’d be on the CBC every week.” And it’s sappy: “If you played for MacT [former Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish], you’d be whinier than [Oilers player Ales] Hemsky. Please stay in Calgary.” Too bad dude’s now playing in Pittsburgh.

Rheostatics—“Ballad of Wendel Clark parts 1 and 2”

Dave Bidini is arguably the music world’s greatest hockey fan—he also wrote plenty about the game, and his 2004 book, The Best Game You Can Name, is essential reading for fans of music and the game—so it’s no surprise that his band, the Toronto-based Rheostatics, have a signature hockey song. Try to keep up with the references in this tribute to the former Maple Leaf captain: They throw in a electric-guitar plug to Hockey Night in Canada’s theme, shout out TSN analyst Dave Hodge, and argue that no. 17’s approach to the game is a way of life: “Hard work,” they say, “is the ethic of the free.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Tragically Hip—“Fifty Mission Cap”

“Fifty Mission Cap” is a song that’s arguably more revered than its subject, Bill Barilko. But that’s because it tells Barilko’s story so damn well: Atop crunchy cottage-country rock, Gord Downie tells the legend of Barilko, who, in 1951, scored the goal that won the Toronto Maple Leafs the Stanley Cup. He disappeared that summer under bizarre circumstances: He was planning for a fishing trip via floatplane in Quebec, but the plane’s wreckage was discovered near Cochrane, Ont. His body went undiscovered for 11 years, and in that span, the Leafs never won the cup—a stretch forever memorialized as Barilko’s Curse. And they haven’t won The Cup since, either. (But soon, Leafs fans. And by soon, we mean never.)

Unknown—“The Leafs Are the Best”

It’s true, isn’t it? ISN’T IT? (Also: spot the Mike Myers cameo.)

The Calgary Flames—“Those Red Hot Flames”

Back in the ‘80s, championship teams would routinely record bizzaro songs to commemorate their victories. (See: The L.A. Rams’ “Let’s Ram It” or this comedically dated anti-drug rap by the L.A. Lakers.) Hockey’s most famed example features the Bret Hull-and-Joe Nieuwendyk led “Those Red Hot Flames,” a video so legendary that it helped spawn a film festival. The Flames in 2013, however, aren’t so red hot: They publically bobbled an offer sheet to restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly, traded away the face of their franchise in Jarome Iginla, and have this terrified lil’ guy as their first-line centre. There’s always next year, right?

DOA—“Taking Care of Business”

This Vancouver hardcore act just went on permanent hiatus—frontman Joey Shithead is now focusing on his political career with the New Democrats—but thankfully, they’ve left us with plenty of memorable hockey tracks. Their interpretation of BTO’s “Taking Care of Business” might be their most complete hockey-as-life anthem: This video features trading card-style introductions to the band, a fictional tilt between Canadian tux-rockin’ goons and business suit-clad Bay St. types, and a not-so-subtle critique of corporate Canada. (The businessmen’s nameplates, for example, read ‘Corruption,’ ‘Disease,’ ‘War,’ ‘Greed,’ and ‘Dictator.’) This is, in essence, the same clash of values that occurs every time Montreal faces off with Toronto.

The Pursuit of Happiness—“Gretzky Rocks”

Hockey and punk rock go way back, and the Pursuit of Happiness—a band formed by Moe Berg, who sang in seminal Edmonton punk band Modern Minds—’s iconic tribute to no. 99 is one of the game’s finest songs. Why? First, it loosely tells the story of Gretz’s rise to stardom. Next, it’s so incredibly ’90s. (“Americans don’t understand / The national sport of the north land / The world’s fastest game they always dissin’ / But they don’t know what they are missin,” is a cutesy rhyme scheme that could only exist in 1995, post-Barenaked Ladies.) And, as an added bonus, it cuts deep enough to satiate most fans of the game—the song refers to Jari, Peter and Janet by first name, and if you’re a casual fan worth your salt, those references need no explanation. The only problem? The fact that Berg supports the Blackhawks, an unlikeable team with a woefully racist logo, a cabbie abusing frat-boy star, and the world’s worst rappers. Moe, we love you, but you’ve got your allegiances all wrong.

Fun 100—“D2”

Abbotsford, B.C.’s Fun 100 might be a long-forgotten teenage screamo-pop punk act, but their members have gone onto staff You Say Party, We Say Die, hardcore weirdos B-Lines, and Vancouver’s Wars. (Fun 100 were also notorious hockey fans, even naming their label, which cut 7-inches by White Lung and Defektors, Hockey Dad Records.) This track memorializes the finest hockey movie ever—D2: The Mighty Ducks, not Slapshot—and its iconic, game-winning formation, the flying V. It’s been long debated if the V would ever work in a real game scenario—until the Winnipeg Jets went and pulled the fucker off.

Propagandhi—“Dear Coach’s Corner”

He’s been called racist, xenophobic, and militaristic, so it’s no surprise that Winnipeg prog-punks Propagandhi would oppose Don Cherry’s views. And for good reason. But who thought they’d write a thoughtful open letter not to Cherry, but to his more level-headed CBC co-host Ron MacLean? “Dear Coach’s Corner” is a lot to chew on, but at its core, it, while acknowledging the influence the show has on the young and old alike, begs the show to not to tie the sport to militarism and patriotism. Good ole Manitoba boys, those Propagandhi fellas.

Tags: Music, Cancon, Lists, News, Arrogant Worms, Calgary Flames, canrock, DOA, Gord Downie, moe berg, Propagandhi, pursuit of happiness, Toronto Maple Leafs, Weakerthans






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