Music and hockey: an all-star panel, part one

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As obsessed as I am with hockey, I was once similarly preoccupied with music. I am nowhere near as plugged in as I used to be, but I still love music and since my tastes tend to run on the obscure side, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk about my favorite bands within the hockey community. But over the years, I’ve found some kindred spirits in the sport and it’s always fun to talk about bands and artists that we share a mutual love for.

So in the spirit of summer fun, I hit up a few of the people who fall into that category and asked them about the current state of hockey and music. Here’s the panel:

Nathan MacKinnon: Calder Trophy-winning center for the Colorado Avalanche, hip-hop head.

Drew Stafford: Veteran Buffalo Sabres right winger, heavy metal fiend

Boyd Devereaux: Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings. Now retired, his company Waking Sound makes hockey promo videos featuring highlights set to music. He also founded the label Elevation Recordings, which put out psyche/noise/underground artists.

Vinny Karpuszka: Arena DJ for the Pittsburgh Penguins, heavy metal enthusiast

Sunaya Sapurji: Junior hockey writer for Yahoo! Sports and its Buzzing the Net blog

Uffe Bodin: Editor in chief and writer for Hockeysverige.se.

Arun Bali: Guitarist for Saves the Day, die-hard Red Wings fan now living in Nashville

Part two of this conversation will go up tomorrow. Here we go…

If you got to choose which song a team skated out to, which would you choose?

Drew Stafford: They would never let me pick our intro song but if I could, I’d do a lightshow in sync with “Tactical Nuke” by Acacia Strain.

Nathan MacKinnon: Something by 50 Cent. That guy is dynamite.

Boyd Devereaux: I always thought “Breed” by Nirvana would be pretty great.

Sunaya Sapurji: “Honey Bucket” by the Melvins. Hockey needs more weirdness.

Uffe Bodin: For Frolunda, I would want something energetic, exciting and homegrown. I’m a big fan of The Stooges and the band closest to Iggy and his delinquents in Gothenburg is Union Carbide Productions (although defunct since the early 1990s when singer Ebbot Lundberg took the reins in The Soundtrack of Our Lives, one of Sweden’s most successful bands for the past 20 years). Union Carbide Productions have a song called “Be Myself Again.” To me, that would be the perfect soundtrack of the team’s striving to become the best in Sweden again.

Arun Bali: I’ve always thought “New Noise” by Refused would be a great song for a team to skate out to. It has a great build at the start and when it kicks in it’s so brutal-sounding. It would be hard not to get amped from hearing that.  My second choice would be the theme from “Blades of Steel.”

What song would you choose, Vinny? Or did you pick the Penguins’ song?

If I had complete free reign, it would be “Damned In Black” by Immortal. I did not choose the Pens’ entrance music. Currently, for the regular season, they come out to an original piece that they have been using for quite some time. It’s gone through different iterations, the current one is pretty driving with distorted guitars and double-bass kicks. In the playoffs we use Metallica’s “Orion” off the Master Of Puppets album (Stick tap to my producer Billy Wareham for picking this). Huge fan of “Orion.”

For me it would be “Baphomet” by Quicksand. Just the right combination of intimidation and catchiness. The other no-brainer would be “Young Lions” by the Constantines. On the flipside, what song do you never want to hear again at the rink?

VK: Fall Out Boy’s “Light ‘Em Up Up Up.” Man, did that song get old quick. It has probably been played to death in every sports venue around the world.

DS: Honestly, during the game I don’t hear the music, so ours isn’t so bad I guess.

NM: “Animals,” by Martin Garrix.

BD: “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

SS: “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

UB: Talking about Frolunda…They have this dreadful, nauseating anthem (“Bära hjälmar av guld,” translation: “Wear helmets of gold,” as the Swedish team that wins the championship gets golden helmets) which they play before the team enters the ice. Imagine Michael Bolton and Kenny G writing a “passionate” love song about an NHL team and that’s pretty much the sentimental crap you would end up with.

AB: “Chelsea Dagger” by the Fratellis.  They use it as the goal song for the Chicago Blackhawks and it’s unbearable.

Nathan, does it feel any worse when you get scored on in Chicago, knowing the whole arena is going to start singing that song?

NM: Yup, that’s a pretty bad feeling. Not fun with those guys get rolling.

Vinny, have you ever been asked to find a goal song that resonates with the crowd so well?

VK: I have not. For as long as I can remember the Pens have flip-flopped between Gary Glitter’s “Rock And Roll Part 2” and Blur’s “Song 2” as the goal song. At the moment it’s “RnR Part 2.”  That was the goal song during Mario’s heyday. People seem to like it, and it’s pretty easy to sing along to, so that’s what we’re rolling with.

For the players, do any of your teammates share your musical tastes?

BD: In Edmonton I roomed with Jimmy Dowd on the road and we’d play and talk about music all the time. He turned me on to some older bands that I hadn’t heard, like Blind Faith and War, and I turned him on to Radiohead and My Morning Jacket.

In Detroit guys like Chris Chelios, Brett Hull and Sean Avery loved their jams (The Who, Neil Young) and we had some great times at some epic shows, mostly due to Cheli’s friendship with Eddie Vedder and Kid Rock, who always treated us amazingly when we made it out to see them. And Darren McCarty of course, we were on the same page as fans of Kyuss and The Stooges.

In Toronto, Bryan McCabe and I would pound Tool as often as possible. Mark Bell and Hal Gill were also big music guys.

Nobody I ever played with was quite so deep into the underground sounds I was searching out. But often when I’d come across a band I felt they’d appreciate I’d let them know and they always seemed to dig it.

Did you ever get control of the dressing room stereo/iPod?

BD: Not really. I recognize that a lot of the stuff I listen to is not for everyone, and I always felt it was more important that the guys be feeling good in the room. If that meant listening to the old standards I was fine with that. The guys who did control the stereo always did a pretty good job. It’s more about routine.

DS: The only guy I’ve ever played with past and present who shares the same musical tastes is Toni Lydman. Everyone else looks at me like I’m a sociopath.

So I guess that’s a “no” on running Buffalo’s iPod.

DS: We didn’t have one guy run it all the time. We kind of switched off. We had a pretty good mix of country, rock and EDM. If I was by myself in the weight room though, I’d put on something heavier.

Nathan, we’ve talked in the past about rappers Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky – do any of the other Avs share your tastes?

NM: There are a couple guys who like them but have other tastes as well. Techno is big. I think everybody likes that genre.

And what are you listening to these days?

NM: I have a good buddy who raps named Certified who’s awesome. Along with Drake, Nipsey Hussle, etc.

Do you have a personal post-game victory song, like when you’re driving home from the arena?

NM: The song “Type of Way” by Rich Homie Quan is up there.

Boyd, you won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2002, did you have a personal victory song when you finally left the rink that night?

BD: Well, I listened to The Hives’ “Veni Vidi Vicious” album before every game of our run on the way to the rink, so it’s quite possible I listened to that. I also discovered Explosions in the Sky that year so it might have been their tune “Greet Death.” That night was a bit of a blur!

Vinny, do players ever make requests in Pittsburgh?

VK: They do, mainly for the warm-ups. It’s their time to get pumped and get focused and do their routine, so why not? Every so often my producer will browse through the team iPod in the dressing room to see what the team is listening to. We do our best to work those songs into the game.

And do any of them share your taste in music?

VK: None that I’m aware of. Back in 2008 we had Erik Christensen, who was big into Slayer. Also, Eric Godard requested Danzig’s “Mother” whenever he fought. I thought that was just amazing.

Janne Niinimaa and Jere Lehtinen were big Slayer fans when they played. One time I asked Niinimaa if he ever tried to play the band in Dallas and he told me Mike Modano threw the CD across the dressing room. Uffe, who’s carrying the metal torch in Europe these days?

UB: Robin Lehner is a big metal fan. He listens to In Flames to get pumped up before games and he even got their logo on his mask. Just like Lehner, In Flames hail from Gothenburg (Sweden).

How about other genres? Not much hip hop, I understand.

UB: House has been big in Sweden for a few years. Local talents like Swedish House Mafia and Avicii especially are being played at the rinks. A lot of Swedish players are big fans of this music as well.

What about in junior hockey, Sunaya?

SS: It’s varied, but I’ve found a lot of the guys are into country music right now. Also whatever genre beardo/banjo Mumford & Sons-type music falls into. In the Quebec League you’ll find more guys into techno & dubstep – there were two players in the ‘Q’ who did some DJing and remixes which was very cool. Lots of rap and hip hop. Quite a few guys who are playing or have graduated play instruments, so it’s always interesting to hear who they’re listening to or trying to emulate.

How do you feel about the music at junior games?

SS: It’s more or less the same around the CHL – you’ve got your steady rotation of “Jock Jams” and whatever’s popular on commercial radio. I understand you need to be mindful of your audience but when you’re hearing the same songs played in the same order every game it becomes monotonous. There are places like Kitchener that do a fantastic job. Their music guy is on Twitter (@DJ_PCPete) and you can make requests. He’s played “Straight Outta Compton” for me at the Aud, which is awesome.

I am going to take advantage of that the next time I go to Kitchener. Arun, what are Nashville games like? It sounds like the Preds have a pretty unique in-game music presentation.

AB: I’ve been living in Nashville for a couple of years now, and it seems that Preds fans are pretty knowledgeable about hockey.  They definitely connect the fact that it’s the “Music City” as part of the games. However, the “you suck” chant after they score a goal is a little unnerving.  There are not enough banners in the rafters to be that cocky about it.

There’s a bunch of artists who play together in town too, right?

AB: There is definitely a nice collective of musicians that skate down in Nashville. For various reasons, I hadn’t skated for about 20 years.  I credit Dean from Queens of the Stone Age for getting me back out there, and now I skate about three times a week when I’m home. Dierks Bentley and I play on the same team in an adult league in Nashville. I’m meeting new musicians all the time at drop-in games, and I love that about the city. Music and hockey, two of my favorite things.

On average, do you meet a lot of hockey fans in the music world?

AB: I’m currently on the Warped Tour, and I have so many friends in bands that are huge hockey fans. Nick from Bayside (NY Rangers), John from Ghost Inside (LA Kings), Ryan Mendez from Yellowcard (Detroit Red Wings), Joe Weiss and Jake Massucco from Four Year Strong (Boston Bruins), Kelen Capener from The Story So Far (San Jose Sharks), our sound guy Brian Turner (NJ Devils), and our guitar tech Matt Black (Detroit Red Wings) are just a few of them. It’s a fun thing to talk about on tour and I’m always meeting new people that are musicians that share the passion for hockey as well.