Viewed 2226 times
“Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes”, so went the old nursery rhyme.
Our present day is saturated with music. It has been said: “Nothing is more singular to this generation than its addiction to music”. With iPod, satellite radio, and even with antiquated CD’s, everyone from pre-teens to “Millenials” must have melody (pseudo or genuine), on the work site, in the car or public transit, on the beach, at the game, and certainly during homework assignments.
In researching the subject of hockey players and music, one publicist from an NHL team opined: “I doubt that any (team name withheld) from the 1950’s had the slightest bent to be musically inclined!”
As this missive unfolds it will be revealed not only that that impression was unfounded, but that pucksters from most decades not only enjoyed music, but played it.
It is no surprise that current NHL’ers who have reached their peak in the New Millennium are keen about a common musical genre. Call it “rock” or “hip hop”, but it does not include the Blue Danube Waltz, Spring In the Rockies, or Flight of the Bumblebee.
Information about Henrik Lundqvist’s involvement in a Swedish rock and, playing his acoustic guitar, and being the featured artist at the opening of Sean Avery’s sports bar, is readily available of the net. It is said that he has been known to ride around in taxis in the Big Apple pounding out tunes on his guitar.
Drew Stafford is a talented guitarist as well, and has performed at concerts in Buffalo. His taste in melody must be broad since has also made music in the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra.
Joffrey Lupul, Kris Versteeg, Zdeno Chara, and Ryan Miller have also been active in making melody of various sorts in recent years. It is said that Ray Bourque is a karaoke fan, and enjoys getting in front of one of those machines and belting out tunes.
Ken Baumgartner once made a CD, and a cassette with the same pieces of heavy-metal songs, the proceeds of the sales of which went to the City of Hope Leukemia Fund.
Darren McCarty’s approach to hockey seemed to jive with his choice of music as well. It was described as a combination of punk and heavy metal. He was the lead singer of his band called “Grinder”, named after the forward line of which he was a part with the Red Wings. In the off season the group played shows in and around the Motor City. In 2002 they wrote and recorded their debut CD, entitled “Gotta Keep Movin”.
But this column is traditionally top heavy with the more vintage kind of hockey history so again, the majority of space will be given over to reminiscing about the game’s players personal involvement in melody in the days gone by.
Frank Fredrickson, of Icelandic stock, first came to the attention of the hockey world when he was the leading light in the Winnipeg Falcon’s gold medal victory in the 1920 Olympics. He attracted the attention of Lester Patrick of the PCHA Aristocrats. More than once he journeyed to Winnipeg to woo him into pay-for-play shinny. The slick centre was not only committed to the Royal Air Force, but was the violinist in the Fort Garry Hotel orchestra. He had played in a dance band during his university days as well. He loved music. He especially loved his violin. When rescued after the ship in which he was sailing was torpedoed, he was still clutching his precious fiddle. He could actually play six stringed instruments, but that was his favourite. It took some fancy talking to get him to change his plans.
After the 1921-22 season in Victoria concluded, he returned home to open a music store with his equally-talented wife. He relented, however, and played nine more seasons in the Coast loop and the NHL.
If his mother had had her way, the great Howie Morenz would have played the piano as well as he played hockey. She herself was an accomplished pianist, and his father was pretty talented on the violin. So she arranged for piano lessons for the budding puckster. However, instead of reporting to his teacher, Ida Hothman, he would race down to the pond and skate and play “keep away” until dark. When Mrs. Morenz inquired about the struggling maestro’s progress, she was told he was doing fine, but she hadn’t seen him for weeks. Dean Robinson, in the “Stratford Streak’s” biography claims that Howie never did learn to play the 88 keys, but mastered the ukulele later in life.
Charlie Gardiner, the whiz netminder of the early 1920’s and 1930’s was a talented soloist. He often performed on local radio in his adopted city of Chicago. David Bidini writes that he used to break into song while facing incoming forwards. Eddie Shore especially was irritated by this tactic and used to argue that he deserved to be penalized. Doubtless he burned when referees used to call for their favourite tunes instead.
On October 1, 1921, the Ottawa Citizen included this lighthearted insert on its pages:
“The Ottawa Hockey Club is in danger of losing Frank Nighbor, its brilliant centre man. He has not accepted an offer from Eddie Livingstone (the Toronto hockey icon), nor has he jumped to the Western Outlaws (the PCHA, the NHL’s major competitors for talent). Frank has gone on stage. He and other Pembroke residents launched an amateur performance and “Dutch” is said to have gone so big that Klaw and Erlanger have flashed him an offer. Nighbor’s hit, in fact, is said to be almost as sensational as he scored the night he sang ‘Sweet Adeline’ in the Barron Hotel, Vancouver. The Ottawas intend to send a deputation up to Pembroke shortly to attend Nighbor’s debut.”
A year and a half later, in 1922-23, the Ottawa Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens in a two-game, total goal series, 3-2, to take the Eastern Championship. They were then required to meet the champions of the PCHA and the winners of the WCHL post-season in challenge for the Stanley Cup. In preparation to meet Vancouver on March 16th, the capital city sextet headed west by train. Somehow they managed to smuggle a piano aboard their Pullman. Eddie Gerard, who not only wrote music, and played by ear, was plopped on the bench and asked to serenade the boys on their way. They enjoyed his renditions so much that they would hardly allow him to stop playing. By the time they arrived in Sudbury his fingers were so blistered that the concert was called off for medical reasons.
In 1935 Tony Savage rejoined the ranks of the Montreal Canadiens after a brief stint with the Bruins. His real name is Gordon Donald, but when his teammates discovered that he had studied Italian opera for several years, the decided he needed a more ethnic nickname, so he became “Tony”. He was an accomplished tenor soloist, and gave recitals in both Canada and the USA. He was able to produce newspaper clippings of favourable accolades about his accomplishments on the stage.
In January 1942 Detroit Red Wings set aside an evening for “Syd Howe Night”. It was a tribute to the perseverance of the team’s veteran, about whom it was said: “As (Syd) Howe goes, the Wings go!” For 29 years his record of the fastest goal in a playoff overtime stood. He also scored six goals in a single match on Feb. 3, 1944.
So he was worthy of this honour. A man of few words, he “let his fingers do the talking” sitting down to a spinet piano presented to him on behalf of fans. The press reported that “he tickled the ivories to the delight of the fans” It was a storybook occasion, since he scored both goals in a 2-0 victory over the visiting Blackhawks.
Tom O’Neill has the distinction of being the only Maple Leaf Gardens usher who also played for the NHL sextet. For three seasons he skated at right wing for the St. Mike’s Junior squad, where he was tagged with the moniker “Windy” because he loved to debate. He was accomplished on the 88 keys, and was tagged the “best pianist in the NHL”. An added nickname, “the Bach and Boogie Woogie Boy” followed him wherever he went—first with Leafs from 1943 through 1945, , and then while he was a Quebec Ace and part of the Halifax Crescents team. In fact, while in La Belle Province he boarded with a lady who continually got peeved with him for the kind of music he chose—much more Boogie Woogie than Bach.
Don Raleigh, whose slight build gained him the agnomen of “Bones”, was a music enthusiast. Like O’Neill, his tastes varied from boogie-woogie to classical. He had a large phonograph collection, and, while he had some Dixie Land discs, he favoured Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn. He also played the banjo ukulele.
Until Glenn Healy came along, Dunc Fisher, who patrolled the wing for the Rangers and Bruins in the 1950’s, was the only NHL bagpipes player. He played for the pipe band in his hometown of Regina.
During that same era, Brian McFarlane of Hockey Night in Canada discovered that the talented Ron Ellis, the sturdy right winger of the Maple Leafs, was also quite an accomplished singer and guitar player. Many of his close associates were surprised that he, normally quiet and self-effacing, consented to tape a performance for an in-between-periods special on a Wednesday night telecast. The familiar folk songs of the era, “King of the Road”, and “The Green Green Grass of Home”, were recorded when Ron and some friends entertained at a retirement home.
The Redmond brothers, Mickey and Dick, enjoyed jam sessions with their guitars. Often on a summer evening if one drove by the family home, he could hear a piano and the guitars blasting out folk or country styling. Dick, who was better on the strings, once gave an impromptu performance at Ontario Place.
There are always surprises when one seeks out musical talent among those who are known for robust performances on the ice. This certainly applies to one Don “Grapes” Cherry, who has kept TV audiences on their toes for years on “Coach’s Corner”. But while some have suggested his finger movements on that programme imitate the stance of a piano player, his actual choice was a pipe and drum band. During the 1967 off season he was part of the Rochester band, marching in parades there and in other centres.
That same year, the ageless Johnny Bower got into the act. He and his son, John Jr., recorded a disc that had children and Christmas in mind. The feature ditty was “Honky the Christmas Goose”, with “Banjo Mule” on the flip side. They were accompanied by a local group called the Rinky Dinks. The song was written by a local story teller, Chip Young. Bower, whose vocals had previously been confined to the shower stall, was said to have a “warm, homey-type voice”.
In the summer of 1961 “Boom Boom” Geoffrion created a resounding sound different than that of the puck banging on the arena boards. He appeared alongside Joan Fairfax on the “Parade” programme on CBC television. His style was that of a “crooner”, a common musical genre in those days. He followed that performance up with a guest appearance on Shirley Harmer’s “A Summer Night” show. He also made a hit on the French-language “Tonight of Never” show, and even made a recording called “En Français”. His talent was impressive enough to catch the attention of Ed Sullivan, variety show guru of that era. His aspirations to make singing a post-retirement career were dashed when he stopped a puck in the throat, damaging his vocal chords.
Another shinny personality who does not seem to fit the harmony habitat is none other than “Iron Mike” Keenan. While playing hockey at St. Lawrence University he also was the lead vocalist for a college rock group called “Nicky and the Nice Guys” (did he go into a phone booth to assume his new guise a detested bench boss?). Sports Illustrated did a feature on this avocation noting that “he could not play an instrument, and sang with an incredibly flat voice”. His signature song was “Peanut Butter”. Even on stage he had an aptitude to control those in the audience, with a strange ability to make them follow his directions—including bringing a guy up on the platform and spreading beurre d’arachide on him.
Bryan Trottier loved country music and, at the age of 15, his parents used to sneak him into honky tonks and bars on both sides of the border to promote the talent they perceived in their son. But he never caught on as a professional with the chords on his guitar—so he turned to his other love—hockey. The NHL and the New York Islanders were winners on that exchange.
In 1976 goalie Phil Myre’s other gift was made public. His wife was a classical music pianist, and was in the process of teaching him that instrument as well. In the meantime, as a self-taught guitarist, his passion was strumming to his favourite country music ditties.
Stan Fischler preferred to call hockey players who were a bit looney, “The Flakes of Winter”. One character, who played a star role in his volume was Gilles Gratton, who once tended goal for the Rangers. Despite the fact that he claimed he was a Spanish Count in a former life and that he refused to play if the moon was not in the right place in its “orbit”, he was a very talented musician. He never took a lesson in his life, yet, on impulse he would just doff his jacket, plop down on the piano bench, and classical music wafted from those 88 keys as if by magic.
Had not the book been penned previous to Claude Lemieux’s tenure in the Big Time, Stanley would surely have included him in one of the chapters. A spaced out, accident-going-somewhere-to-happen agitator on the ice, he was once called a “cancer” by his coach—referring to his disruptive effects on his team. But there was occasion when he was a featured soloist on a New Jersey Devils Sports-Channel special. Accompanied by his wife Carole on the piano, he belted out “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me!” He admitted that she was better as a pianist than he was a vocalist.
In 1979 Platinum Records, in cooperation with Alan Thicke, released a 45 rpm record entitled “Hockey Sock Rock”. The Ranger Rockets, led by Phil Esposito, along with Ron Duguay, Dave Maloney, Pat Hickey, and John Davidson—accompanied by Thicke’s band, in his studio, produced this disc to fund The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Scribbled on Pat Hickey’s personal copy of the platter, in Thicke’s by his own hand, was this tongue-in-cheek suggestion: “Don’t Give Up Your Day Job!”
A couple of years later, the L.A. Kings Triple Crown Line of Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, and Charlie Simmer, got into the act. Calling themselves the “Puck Tones”, they recorded a video featuring a song called “Please Forgive My Misconduct Last Night”. The obvious reference to being caught in naughtiness on the ice is a clever pun. Because both numbers are available on the net, there is no need to print them here.
Space does not permit a sampling of other NHL’ers who have dabbled in do re mi fa so la ti do. The list includes Gilbert Dionne, Joey Juneau, Guy LaFleur, Jamie Allison, Ian Turnbull, Dave Schultz, Chris Chelios, Brad Dalgarno, and Kelly Hrudey.
But no expose would be complete without at least a cameo appearance by Francis Michael “King” Clancy. When he came to Chicago to referee, the Stadium’s rascally organist, Al Melgard, would strike up the tune “Three Blind Mice”, as soon as the officials skated onto the ice. He sent word for him to cease and desist, since it stirred up the fans against them. Never caught flat-footed, the Windy City mystro switched gears. He played “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” instead.
Viewed 2226 times
Blues Not the Only St. Louis Pro Hockey Champions - Part One
Posted October 14, 2019
That Decisive Seventh Game
Posted May 26, 2019
You Gotta Have Hart!
Posted May 13, 2019
He Shoots! He Scores! Hockey's Clarion Call
Posted April 25, 2019
Second Thoughts on Penalties
Posted April 14, 2019
His Night to Howell
Posted March 30, 2019
Posted March 18, 2019
Humour - A Way to Catch Your Balance
Posted March 03, 2019
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 2
Posted February 15, 2019
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 1
Posted February 01, 2019
The Rise and Fall of Sweater Number 9
Posted January 23, 2019
Penalty-Free NHL Games
Posted January 09, 2019
The Greatest of These is Charity
Posted December 22, 2018
Minor League 'Davids' Defeating Major League 'Goliaths'
Posted December 07, 2018
The Shadow Knows
Posted November 25, 2018
Lying Down on the Job
Posted November 04, 2018
The Perils and Pleasures of Water
Posted October 19, 2018
Hockey's Cinderella Teams
Posted October 07, 2018
Posted May 19, 2018
Hockey's Classic Embarrassing Moments
Posted May 10, 2018
Playing in a Fog
Posted April 21, 2018
Posted April 08, 2018
First Game, First Shift, First Goal!
Posted March 26, 2018
Always a Bridgroom
Posted March 12, 2018
The Year the Canadiens Almost Died
Posted February 24, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless - Part 2
Posted February 17, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless
Posted January 28, 2018
Lucky Black Cats and Number 13
Posted January 17, 2018
Concussions in Hockey Nothing New
Posted December 30, 2017
The Best Christmas I Remember
Posted December 18, 2017
Filling the Gap
Posted December 01, 2017
Off Duty Injuries; mishaps away from the rink
Posted November 13, 2017
The Most Cruel Bird of All
Posted October 26, 2017
Las Vegas — NHL's 31st Team — Knights or Knaves?
Posted October 13, 2017
Playing Under the Influence - of Pain
Posted May 29, 2017
Laughter - The Best Medicine
Posted April 29, 2017
The Last Straw
Posted April 15, 2017
Whose Side Are You On Anyway?
Posted March 30, 2017
Ferreting Out Phantom Hockey Stars
Posted March 17, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 2)
Posted March 08, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 1)
Posted February 19, 2017
Tales From the Sin Bin!
Posted February 04, 2017
Happy 100th Birthday N.H.L
Posted January 25, 2017
New Year's Resolutions that Might Have Been
Posted January 06, 2017
It Happened on December 25th
Posted December 21, 2016
The Best of Hockey's One-Liners
Posted December 10, 2016
The Price of Stardom
Posted November 18, 2016
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Posted November 03, 2016
Auston Matthews: Liberator or Lemon?
Posted October 14, 2016
Hockey's Multi-Generation Families
Posted June 16, 2016
Picture Perfect - A Dozen Classic Hockey Photos
Posted June 08, 2016
Anatomy of the Penalty Shot
Posted May 17, 2016
Hockey's Honourary Indian Chiefs
Posted May 04, 2016
Posted April 17, 2016
Records That Will Never Be Broken
Posted March 31, 2016
Right Church — Wrong Pew
Posted March 23, 2016
Does "Captain" Mean Much Anymore?
Posted March 02, 2016
Posted February 21, 2016
Now That's Not Pun-ny!
Posted February 07, 2016
A Century of Leap Year Landmarks - Part 2
Posted January 26, 2016
A Century of Leap Year Landmarks - Part 1
Posted January 06, 2016
Posted December 29, 2015
Practice Can Be Precarious
Posted December 11, 2015
How Much is a Body Worth?
Posted November 25, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge is Falling Down...
Posted November 15, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part Two)
Posted November 01, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part One)
Posted October 16, 2015
From Champs to Chumps
Posted June 07, 2015
CLEAN PLAY……CLEAN PLAYERS….TRUE SPORTS
Posted May 11, 2015
Putting the Bite on the Opposition
Posted April 24, 2015
One Eyed Wonders
Posted April 12, 2015
Captain Cage Cop
Posted March 26, 2015
Trade Deadline Deals — Blockbuster or Bluster?
Posted March 17, 2015
Fun In the Snow
Posted February 27, 2015
Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated
Posted February 16, 2015
It's not what they said - it's what they meant!
Posted January 31, 2015
Posted January 18, 2015
Hockey's New Years Babies
Posted January 03, 2015
Strange Gifts - Christmas or Otherwise
Posted December 20, 2014
Two Dozen + 1 Wacky Wonders
Posted December 06, 2014
The Last of a Long Line of...
Posted November 24, 2014
A Compendium of Referee Non-Calls
Posted November 09, 2014
40th Anniversary of the 1974 Summit Series
Posted October 25, 2014
The Many Faces of Training Camp
Posted October 13, 2014
The Rise and Fall of Playoff Heroes
Posted May 30, 2014
Boston Bruins Celebrate 90 Years
Posted May 17, 2014
A Curse Upon Ye!
Posted May 01, 2014
For the Birds
Posted April 20, 2014
They Were Not Fooled By Their Birthdates
Posted April 08, 2014
Bitten By The Hand That Feeds
Posted March 22, 2014
Tongue in Check
Posted March 08, 2014
A Few L.A.F.F.S. to Relieve your S.A.D.
Posted February 21, 2014
The Ultimate Valentine - A Kiss
Posted February 08, 2014
Hats Off to Hockey
Posted January 25, 2014
Posted January 11, 2014
New Year's Revelations
Posted December 30, 2013
Posted December 23, 2013
Esposito vs Esposito - Smith vs Smith
Posted November 30, 2013
Just Dying to Play Hockey
Posted November 17, 2013
What's In 50 Years
Posted November 02, 2013
The Ongoing Resolve - NHL Season is Too Long!
Posted October 20, 2013