Feature

Canadian roots hockey song playlist

What a great time to be a Canadian hockey fan: the Jets are on the way back to Winnipeg, as the Vancouver Canucks take on the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.

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!

If you are enjoying this content, please take a second to support Roots Music Canada on Patreon!

19 comments

  1. avatar
    Mark Holmes 1 June, 2011 at 19:44

    As usual my friend, great job! If I may however, I think that The Tragically Hip’s 50 Mission Cap should be given some consideration. The song is about the Leaf player who scored the overtime winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal in 1951, only to die in a plane crash that summer as he was returning from a fishing trip. They didn’t find his body till 1962.

  2. avatar
    Richard Flohil 1 June, 2011 at 19:53

    Hey guys, how come you missed the title track of the most recent Tim Hus CD on Stony Plain, Hockeytown? This Alberta boy knows his hockey – and whoever put this video together using the song deserves a round of applause!

  3. avatar
    Sam Cronk 1 June, 2011 at 21:16

    Jane Siberry’s “Hockey” — who could forget that classic line, “This stick was signed by Jean Beliveau, so don’t effing tell me where to effing go…”

  4. avatar
    David Newland 1 June, 2011 at 22:27

    Hey folks, thanks for the suggestions.

    We knew we’d miss some tracks – we were bound to – and we also knew the “comments” feature would allow you, our readers, to add yours in.

    Sean, of COURSE – how could we have missed Wendel? Great tune. Mark: you’re so right; the story of Bill Barilko as told in 50 Mission Cap is hugely compelling. Richard, thanks for the link – Tim Hus is a terrific musician and performer. Sam, that’s a great line indeed. Important addition.

    Practically the moment after we published the story, two more came to mind: Dala’s “Hockey Sweater” and Kathleen Edwards’ “Hockey Skates.” But we know there are more, so keep ’em coming!

  5. avatar
    Andy Frank 1 June, 2011 at 23:13

    I always liked Raised on Robbery by Joni:

    “A little money riding on the Maple Leafs
    Along comes a lady in lacy sleeves
    She says let me sit down
    You know, drinkin’ alone’s a shame
    It’s a shame it’s a crying shame
    Look at those jokers
    Glued to that damn hockey game … “

  6. avatar
    gary glover 2 June, 2011 at 07:42

    after watching Torres and his team-mates keep the heat on till the very last seconds of the game last night I keep humming James Keelaghan’s “Glory Bound” this morning.

  7. avatar
    Bill Garrett 2 June, 2011 at 09:29

    A bunch of great songs for sure. To my mind “Sawchuck” is really compelling as it takes you right down to ice level to experience the grit and emotion of the game.
    Judging by last night’s game it looks like we’re in for a great series. Oh and by the way for the nationalists here, there are more Canadians playing for the Bruins than there are for the Canucks.
    Go Habs!

  8. avatar
    David Newland 2 June, 2011 at 11:19

    Hey Bill,

    Personally I’m cheering for the Canadian team over the team with the most Canadian players… among other reasons, it’s nice to see the country unite around hockey.

  9. avatar
    Heather 4 June, 2011 at 15:11

    Someone has already mention Kathleen Edwards’ Hockey Skates, but what about “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory” and the line “You’re The Great One,
    I’m Marty McSorley”?Also, Lynn Miles’ “It’s Hockey Night in Canada”.

  10. avatar
    Drakakis 11 June, 2011 at 16:15

    Let’s not forget that stirring ballad “Hit Somebody(The Hockey Song)” by Warren Zevon:

    There were Swedes at the the blue line, Finns at the red,
    A Russian with a stick heading straight for his head
    Brains over brawn-that might work for you
    But what’s a Canadian farm boy to do
    What else can a farm boy from Canada to do
    Hit somebody! was what the crowd roared
    When Buddy the goon came over the boards

    … and, of course, “Fireworks” by Tragically Hip:

    If there’s a goal that everyone remembers, it was back in old ’72
    We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
    And all I remember is sitting beside you

    You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey
    And I never saw someone say that before
    You held my hand and we walked home the long way
    You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr

    … and finally (?) “Neighbourhood 5 (Hockey)” by Arcade Fire:

    What’s the score? What’s the score? Jesus Christ, Felix, what’s the score?
    oooh oooh oooh aaahh aaaaah oohh oh aaaaaah aaaaaah oooooh ah!

  11. avatar
    Drakakis 11 June, 2011 at 16:18

    Did I say finally?? Rap & Hockey is an odd combination but here’s D.O.A. with “Give ’em the Lumber”:

    they’re stealing our teams they’re stealing our game and they’re stinkin’ mascots are too damn lame just because they got american bucks they think they can use digital pucks quebec and winnipeg are gone canadian hockey hits the swan song a basketball guy is running the show greedy owners ripping at our soul [Chorus:] the hockey was hard an’ it was rough it was ours for all time but we stopped working the corners i wish that we would wake up and stand on guard for thee but canada won’t drop the gloves here’s the lady byng trophy moses had ten commandments but for us hockey is omnipotent don’t carry the puck in front of the net or you’ll fish it out i bet finish your check all the time and keep your head up on the blue line that ain’t russian or american it’s pure canadiana [Chorus:] give’em the lumber

  12. avatar
    Drakakis 11 June, 2011 at 16:21

    … and depending upon your definition of “music”, you might add Adam Sandler’s “Three Cheers for Ottawa (Go Leafs Go)

    Oh 3 cheers for Ottawa
    they think they got a shottawa
    they must be smokin pottawa
    cuz the stanley cup will never go 2 ottawa

  13. avatar
    Len 15 September, 2012 at 18:03

    There was a great song about the 1972 Summit Series. No not the one by the Tragically Hip. This one came out later in 1972 or early 1973. Don’t know who sings it, but I can still remember the first chorus. Does anyone remember this song. It starts out with:
    They gathered at Maple Leaf Gardens,
    And everyone there was a star,
    There was Peter and Frank, and Cashman the tank,
    Tony and Dryden and Phil,
    Speedy Yvan Cournoyer, Ellis, Makita and Clarke,
    And bouncing Brad Park, it’s all just a lark,
    We’ll give those Russkies hell.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *