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Stripped of bells and whistles, hockey still has its soundtracks

Ron MacLean

Greig Reekie/Greig Reekie

This week's Hockey Day in Canada festivities include Stolen From a Hockey Card, a CBC-sponsored concert on Feb. 9 in Charlottetown, where musicians Dave Bidini, Sarah Harmer and others will unveil their new hockey-themed tunes.

The event's host, Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean, speaks about music and the best game you can name.

Thursday's concert is a celebration of hockey songs, and anybody who watches you regularly knows you're a music fan. What are your thoughts on the association of hockey with music?

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Hockey Night in Canada used to be surrounded by Singalong Jubilee and Tommy Hunter. Maybe it's as simple as that, on a subliminal level. I know in my own life, as an only child hooked on Hockey Night in Canada, I was also deeply into music. I was born in 1960, and for whatever reason, the K-Tel records seemed to be my introduction into it. After that it was jukebox, and then the rink.

K-Tel and jukeboxes? You just lost all our young readers.

No, they won't get those references. [Laughs]I was thinking about that too.

What are your thoughts about CBC losing The Hockey Theme to CTV in 2008?

I wish we could have kept it. Michael Bublé, by the way, is helping us out on the Saturday, Feb. 11, broadcast by playing ball hockey on the Richmond Olympic Oval in British Columbia. He tried to buy that song about five years ago, but he found out the asking price was $3-million, and he backed off.

The concert on Thursday is titled Stolen From a Hockey Card, a reference to a Tragically Hip song, 50 Mission Cap, based on the story of former Maple Leaf Bill Barilko. Are you a fan of Gord Downie and the band?

It's a great story. I would say it's one of the greatest hockey songs ever penned. I've always said that when I retire I'd like to open up a little bar called The Wherewithal, named after their song. There's a line "I always loved that guy, and he's not on TV any more."

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Do you notice that when people talk about hockey songs, they often mean those loud, energetic songs played during breaks in the game, that have nothing lyrically to do with hockey?

Don Cherry feels that Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll Part 2, which they played in Colorado when he coached there, was the beginning of that kind of arena rock. Now, every hockey arena is drenched in rock songs.

When you Google "hockey music," things like Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train come up.

Right. That song, by the way, was huge part of my youth. We would go house-boating and start every day with it. It was our morning alarm.

The artists involved in Thursday's concert will each be writing a hockey song for the event. Whereas, the Super Bowl brings in a Madonna for a 12- minute spectacle. How would you compare Hockey Day in Canada to the Super Bowl?

I think it was Faulkner who said that you celebrate something at the expense of its playfulness. I think ours is very stripped down celebration. It's returning to the smallness of it all. It's like Henry David Thoreau, but a different pond.

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Faulkner and Thoreau. Okay, I'll quote Stompin' Tom Connors, who said, "The good old hockey game is the best game you can name, and the best game you can name is the good old hockey game." Do you agree with that?

I think Tom is right. Hockey flows through us. It definitely cuts across all generations, cultures and creeds. In the U.S., you have the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR. Our country, you just have the one.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Hockey Day in Canada airs all day on CBC, noon, Feb. 11.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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