Canadian roots hockey song playlist
While there’s no question who we’re cheering for —Canucks all the way— we know you have one question for us: what’s the right music for the moment?
Well, here’s a list of great Canadian roots hockey songs worth considering:
Stompin’ Tom, “The Hockey Song”
This may be the best-known hockey song in Canada, if not the world. Dating from a time when “Bobby” was the ultimate hockey name (was it Hull, Orr, or Clarke Stompin’ Tom had in mind?), this song is cleverer than Connors gets credit for. “The puck is in, the home team wins!” ought to send a shiver of excitement up any true Canadian’s spine.
Gordon Lightfoot, “Did She Mention My Name?”
Speaking of the home team: when Gordon Lightfoot asks, “Is the home team still on fire, do they still win all the games,” in verse two of this classic song, we know he means the hockey team, because he’s already asked “is the ice still in the river?” in verse one. This may not be a crowd-pumping anthem, but the oblique mention of hockey in this song grounds it beautifully in small town, anywhere Canada.
Jughead, “The Hockey Song”
This song would make the list for its lengthy recitation of hockey variations alone: “air hockey, ball hockey, barn hockey, bubble hockey, field hockey, floor hockey, ice hockey, kitchen hockey, road hockey, roller hockey, table hockey, twist hockey…” But we like the spirit of a nine-piece jug band in action too.
David Francey, “Skating Rink”
Editorial correctness demands that we note the title of this song is a little misleading. A skating rink is only sometimes used for hockey; every small town kid knows the issues that arise when skaters and hockey players vie for the same ice.
But we forgive David Francey because he’s a true poet of song, because he’s from Scotland where the distinction may not be as precise, because he allegedly plays hockey, and especially because this song was the theme for Hockey Day in Canada back in ’07.
Tragically Hip, “Wheat Kings”
Despite the mention of the Brandon hockey team in its title, this song is not about hockey, per se. Rather, it’s about the tragedy that befell David Milgaard and his long-suffering mother when he was wrongly imprisoned. But the plaintive whine of “Wheat Kings and pretty things / let’s just see what tomorrow brings” sets the aching tone for this Tragically Hip lament for justice delayed.
As in “Did she mention my name,” it’s the mention of hockey as a part of day-to-day Canadian life that really gives the song its sense of place.
Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, “Big League”
Maybe we’re veering into roots-rock here, but so be it. Don’t make us school you on Tom Cochrane‘s folk roots; they run all the way to The Riverboat. And anyway, this is as deeply Canadian a song as you can imagine.
The heartbreak of a father in a northern town who loses his hockey hero son is all the more affecting when you find out Big League is based on a true story. With the Canucks in the finals, this song has a particular resonance: promising young Canucks defenceman Luc Bourdon died in a motorcycle accident in 2008.
Great Big Sea, “Helmet Head”
If you’d like to get into the spirit of the game by simulating the hallucinations of post-concussion syndrome, just watch the YouTube video of Great Big Sea singing “Helmet Head” on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.
Weird setting aside, this song is a crowd-pleaser of the best kind, and the lyric, from the perspective of a love-lorn enforcer, is a hoot.
The Pursuit of Happiness, “Wayne Gretzky Rocks”
Widely attributed to folk fest favourites The Arrogant Worms, this power-pop anthem actually comes from the pen of the not-so-folky Moe Berg and his ensemble The Pursuit of Happiness. It’s a contentious pick for this list, not because Gretzky is miles from the centre of the action right now, but because the song includes the lyric “Actually, I like the Hawks”. The Canucks took a full seven games to defeat the Hawks to get to the finals. Still, we like the sentiment.
Arrogant Worms, “Me Like Hockey”
As for the Arrogant Worms: they earn their name on this track, dismissing hockey fans as monosyllabic neanderthals who only like the rock-em-sock-em aspect of the game. It’s songs like this that drive a wedge between music fans and hockey fans!
But props to the Worms anyway: it’s still a funny song. As we head out to watch tonight’s opener against the Bruins, we’ll just imagine it’s Boston fans the Worms had in mind.
Ron Hynes, “Sawchuk”
Last but far from least, for our money, this may be the grittiest hockey song ever written. Inspired by Randall Maggs‘ “Nightwork: The Sawchuk Poems“, Ron Hynes managed to capture the guts, the gifts and the glory of the greatest goalie to play the game.
We were lucky enough to hear an exclusive performance of Sawchuk during Ron Hynes’ Woodshed Session, and it still gives us chills every time we watch it.
That’s our list for the Stanley Cup Finals. What’s yours?
P.S. GO CANUCKS!