10 Canadian musicians who play hockey

by Mark Teo

October 4, 2013






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Hockey Night In Canada? More like Hockey Life in Canrock!

I’ll go ahead and say what’s on everyone’s mind: Screw summer. But for all the autumn celebration that happens—from smug scarf-wearing to roasted veg food porn—for most Canadians, fall is significant for a single reason. That reason? The yearly return of hockey.

The connection between our national sport and our homegrown musicians runs deep—and there are scores of songs written about the sport. It should come as no surprise, then, that there are plenty of prominent Canadian musicians who love to lace ‘em up, many of which can be seen at the Juno Cup, which pits musicians against retired NHLers, or Canmusic’s unofficial beer league, the Hockey Summit of the Arts. Here are a few notables who’ve been known to lace it up—just in time for hockey’s return.


The Rheostatics’ Dave Bidini

Photo: Twitter.com

Dave Bidini, the ex-Rheostatic and current leader of Bidiniband, is arguably Canadian music’s largest advocate of the game—literature, hockey, and songcraft have intersected multiple times in his career. Bidini’s a Torontonian through and through, and it shows: The Rheos wrote “The Ballad of Wendel Clark,” an ode to the legendary mustachioed Leaf captain, while in his writing career, he’s searched the globe for the game in Tropic of Hockey and a memoir called Keon and Me.

His true classic, however, is The Best Game You Can Name, in which he anecdotally namedrops scores of musician-beer leaguers while lovingly documenting his own team, The Morningstars. Most notably, it uncovered his biggest on-ice rival, a man who he dreamed was “impaled on a goalpost” and “run over by a streetcar.” That dude? Jim Cuddy.


Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy

Photo: banffspringshotelstaffreunionwebsite.ca

Truly, it’s difficult to believe that anyone could hate Blue Rodeo’s honey-voiced singer, Jim Cuddy. Cuddy’s stayed away from throwing barbs at Bidini, instead focusing on his love of the game: In this Toronto Life story detailing his essential belongings, he lists his skates before he mentions his guitar. He’s given plenty to the game professionally, too, whether in participating in the Juno Cup, talking shop on Hockey Night in Canada, or singing the Winnipeg Jets’ first-ever national anthem.


Sloan’s Chris Murphy

Photo: Allvoices.com

According to this interview with Magnet, Chris Murphy has been playing hockey in the Hockey Association of the Arts for a decade. (Though he qualifies that with “but I still hate jocks.” PONX.) Nonetheless, he’s a giant fan of the game, and like John K. Samson, who wrote an ode to Reggie “the Riverton Rifle” Leach, he also wrote a tribute to a local NHLer—in Sloan’s case, it was “The Ballad of Forbes Kennedy,” a pugilist born in Dorchester, NB.


Minotaurs’ Nathan Lawr

Photo: wavelengthtoronto.com

Nathan Lawr is well-known as key cog to Guelph’s scene, whether it’s as a session player on Three Gut-related acts (Royal City, Constantines) or helming Minotaurs, a proggy outfit that’s attracted high-profile contributions from CanCon’s most beloved. Lawr is playing as a defenceman on (who else?) the Guelph Royal Pains at this year’s edition of Hockey Summit of the Arts.


Patrick Watson

Photo: Youtube.com

Patrick Watson is known for his eccentric songwriting, all of which makes sense—he is a goaltender, after all.


Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie

Photo: thetragicallyhip.com

I can’t verify that Gord Downie actually plays hockey, but in Bidini’s The Best Game You Can Name, he’s spotted commenting on the Exclaim! Cup. (Downie comments on the tenacity of fellow summer fest-rocker Sam Roberts.) We do know, however, that he’s an avid fan of the game, and any hockey fan would tell you that “Fifty Mission Cap” is one of the finest anthems the game has. But patriotic chest-thumpers, be warned: Downie does not, in fact, support a Canadian team. He’s a Bruins fan—his godfather is Boston hockey icon Harry Sinden—and even the Hip’s merchandise reflects their allegiance. (Some also say that the colours of the Hip jerseys were meant to match those of the Kingston Frontenacs, the Tragically Hip’s hometown OHL team.) Habs fans, that’s the feeling of your flesh crawling.


Billy Talent’s Jonathan Gallant

Photo: webs.com

Jonathan Gallant comes as recommendation from AUX contributor—and writer for CBC, Spinner, and other Canmusic publications of note—Aaron Brophy, who’s spent plenty of time around musician-players. He describes Gallant as “really good,” which isn’t surprising, considering that he doesn’t consider music a hobby—he considers writing a blog about hockey a pastime. The above photo features him and NOW Magazine publisher Michael Hollett.


The Smugglers’ Grant Lawrence

These days, Grant Lawrence is better known as a CBC Radio 3 personality than a musician. (Though we haven’t forgotten his days in the Smugglers.) His newest book, like Bidini’s Keon, is part memoir, part ode to hockey, reinforcing the game’s deep, perhaps mystical connection to music. Too bad he wears Canucks colours on the cover of The Lonely End of the Rink.


DOA’s Joey Keithley

Fewer bands have been as vocal about their love of the game as DOA, led by their singer-turned-NDPer Joey Keithley. Keithley has called himself a “stick swinger” in previous interviews, and while he might fancy himself a ham ‘n’ egger, he left a lasting tie between the game and hardcore, the genre he arguably invented: Hockey-themed bands like Slapshot and the Hanson Brothers owe their livelihood to Keithley and co.


Hollerado’s Menno Versteeg

Photo: thepeterboroughexaminer.com

The affable Hollerado frontman has two loves: OK GO-style viral videos and hockey. He’s been known to participate in the Juno Cup, and according to The Score, the “Juliette” singer isn’t related to current Florida Panther Kris Versteeg, is a fan of both the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens. (No surprise, really, as Hollerado’s hometown, Manotick, is close to Ottawa, while the band cut their teeth in Montreal.) He also reputedly owns a pair of Russ Courtnall’s game-used gloves, which he hopefully didn’t lose in a recent house fire.

Tags: Music, Cancon, Lists, News, Billy Talent, canrock, Dave Bidini, DOA, grant lawrence, hollerado, Joey Keithley, Sloan, Tragically Hip






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