VANCOUVER, B.C. - On the eve of another Juno Cup hockey game between Canadian musicians and retired NHLers, Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy finally dispensed with the trash talk.
After losing every matchup since he founded the Juno weekend tradition, Cuddy says he's beginning to lose faith.
"We're pretty bad," Cuddy said of his team at practice on Thursday. "The NHLers never seem to lose anything, and the rockers seem to get worse every year."
This year's batch includes Barenaked Ladies drummer Tyler Stewart, Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle and country singer Aaron Pritchett - one player Cuddy actually seemed excited about.
"We've got Aaron Pritchett, and that should help, he seems pretty good, but we're really pretty bad," he said.
They'll go up against a team of retired NHLers that includes Paul Coffey, Cliff Ronning and tough guy Bob Probert.
Former Canucks sniper Russ Courtnall - who's playing in his fourth Juno Cup - said he pitched an idea that would have made life easier for the musicians' perennially sadsack squad.
"We tried to get them to mix up the teams, but they think I guess that if we get older and heavier, they'll beat us one day," he said.
There was much good-natured ribbing at Thursday's shootaround - "Unless they put something in our water and we can't function properly, they've got no chance," said former Habs winger Mark Napier - but it was overwhelmingly one-sided.
"We haven't won a game yet," noted country singer George Canyon, who returns to the rockers' team after taking a year off. When it was noted that he could throw his considerable frame around, he replied: "These NHL guys, that'd be like a fly landing on them if I hit them with a check."
Cuddy had set out to add more women to his team this year and he succeeded in adding two. But only Kathleen Edwards will suit up while Sarah McLachlan sits out with a neck injury.
Cuddy says it hasn't been hard to recruit players because he thinks there's a connection between Canadian musicians and hockey.
"(Hockey) is certainly one of the things that unites a lot of musicians," he said. "Somehow, the musicians have at least a peripheral interest in hockey. And it's a good way to stay in shape, it's a portable pleasure - you can do it on the road - so it does seem to be the thing that's easiest to get people involved in.
"We lead relatively similar lives, these diasporic lives - the travelling, the playing. That does create a certain state of mind that we can share."
John Dinsmore, who plays bass for Edwards and will suit up in the game on Friday, agreed.
"Probably all of us played hockey before we played music, certainly I did," he said. "Then when you realized you weren't going to make the NHL, and (music) was a better way to meet girls, then it's just with you."