Sports and music go together like nachos and beer, rum and coke, Maggiesox/CuteSports/Lady Bee and red wine (sensing a theme here?) With NHL playoff hockey fever running rampant around these parts, I started thinking about all the music I dig that references hockey. These songs have been running through my head at one point or another these last few weeks, so I thought I’d share them with you. No Stompin’ Tom this time around, but I assure you this list is 100% CANCON.
Tom Cochrane “Big League”
Before he was known for his feel good anthem “Life Is A Highway”, Tom Cochrane had a monster hit north of the border for “Big League”, which despite its hopeful chorus told the story of a life cut tragically short. GAH. I loved this song in Grade 10 (YES, I’M OLD!) and I think I still have the cassette in the garage. Chances are you’ve heard it, but you may not have heard this version recorded in August 2009 at Rootstock in Niagara-on-the-Lake for CBC Radio Two. If Cochrane’s stripped down rendition doesn’t tear you apart even a little bit, then congratulations! You are made of stone.
The Rheostatics “The Ballad of Wendel Clark”
Not exactly commercial darlings, and definitely not Nickelback, but certainly beloved. I was a latecomer to the Rheostatics but I have no doubt they likely provided a glimmer of indy hope in the mid 80s when music fans with discerning taste were getting a little too sick of Loverboy. “Wendel Clark” is one of their many classics. I don’t recall hearing this one when I saw them in a tiny university pub with my BFF 10 or so years ago, but they rocked. Like Wendel did back in the day.
I mean, there’s an Etobicoke sign in the video! And rod hockey! How is that not cool?
And now a Wendel Clark-related interlude. Mr. Bee was elated the day he found this old CBC/HNIC video on YouTube, fond memories of 1986 and Bryan Adams when he still knew how to rock:
Tragically Hip “Fireworks”
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the quintessential Canadian band, the Hip: a perfect segue as they toured with the Rheostatics, and also wrote a song about a Leaf great.
WHAT?! You’ve never heard “Fifty Mission Cap”?! Jeesly! Just go here. Now. It’s on the “Fully Completely” album, for heaven’s sake. I’ll be here when you get back.
Good to see you again. Have some fun facts. Did you know that lead singer Gord Downie played minor league hockey in Ontario? He was a goaltender. He stopped in my home province to audition for a made-for-TV movie about the 1972 Summit Series, but didn’t get a part. His godfather is former Boston Bruins coach and GM Harry Sinden.
Speaking of ’72, this song makes reference to that famous tourney. Of course, it’s really background noise in a song about relationships and their complications.
Hawksley Workman “Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky”
My friend Karen is a huge fan and would shun me for not including her new rock star boyfriend. Sorry I couldn’t access a video, but do visit his site where you’ll find this catchy electro-pop track (come on, who does not love falsetto?!) Then good luck trying to get it out of your head!
“Pink and purple and yellow and blue, and a mouth that’s crying out for lipstick, too.”
Joni Mitchell “Raised On Robbery”
Back to references to the Maple Leafs. Joni included one in this track from her early 70s masterpiece “Court and Spark”. Really, there ought to be a law that this album and Joni’s “Blue” should be issued to every woman upon turning 21, along with Carole King’s “Tapestry” and Liz Phair’s “Exile In Guyville”.
It’s truly fitting she wrote a lyric about the Leafs: they’ve robbed fans of all hope for the last 33 years.
Kathleen Edwards “I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory”
Another song not necessarily about hockey, but any song that references both Gretzky and Marty McSorley wins. The video’s a bit on the goofy side – I mean, seriously Kathleen, those earrings in a game of pickup? – but she gets bonus points for the Paul Coffey and Dave Hodge cameos and for making out with Marty.
Kathleen Edwards “Hockey Skates”
Oh. Yeah. Did I mention that I really like Kathleen Edwards? Sorry.
This track is from her 2003 debut “Failer”. The studio version is achingly beautiful – I don’t know of another relationship-falling-apart song that captures that feeling of defeat so poignantly. And I will forever be in love with this lyric: “Do you think your boys’ club will crumble just because of a loud-mouthed girl?”
This loud-mouthed girl digs this performance of “Hockey Skates”:
Got more to add to the playlist? Let’s throw down below!