Rewinding the Soundtrack of Our Game

By Jason Menard

Who knew that from the ashes of the organ would rise, Phoenix-like, a much more obnoxious beast? And, like the guy who recycles the same stable of jokes each time you meet him, it’s time to say enough is enough!

The majestic organ interludes of our past have been replaced by a far more insidious beast – the arena DJ who is overly self-impressed with his own wit. Anyone who’s attended a hockey game recently knows that the musical interludes during a game can be painful. Like a bad schoolyard pun, the music selections elicit more groans than grins and can, in fact, take away from an otherwise-improved product.

It was bad enough that hockey arenas were the last bastion of ‘90s dance-pop. While Pump Up the Jam and Get Ready 4 This long stopped echoing off the dance floor and from the radio airwaves, they are in regular rotation at any arena across the continent. By all rights, 2 Unlimited and Technotronic should have faded into Behind-the-Music-esque obscurity, but their continued existence is validated by these faceless few manning the soundboards.

And it’s not enough to simply rehash the less-than-classics. Perhaps resentful of the fact that all those in attendance are there to watch the on-ice action and not appreciate their disc jockeying talents, these self-same few seem to enjoy inflicting aural pain on their captive audience. How else can you explain the repeated playing of Cotton Eye Joe, a song that sticks in your brain in much the same manner – and with a similar effect – of a tumour?

But all of this sadistic musical torture could be excused if not for the indulgence of their alleged wit. A phenomenon that I would like to refer to as Situational Song Styling is growing in popularity. You’ve probably experienced it first-hand: from the playing of War’s Why Can’t We Be Friends? during (or after) a fight to Eric Carmen’s All By Myself when a player finds himself alone in the penalty box, these stadium DJs attempt to dazzle us with their ability to reference song lyrics to on-ice situations.

The list just goes on and on: Carl Douglas’ Kung Fu Fighting after a scrap; Kenny Loggins’I’m Alright following an injury; Supertramp’s Waiting So Long during a stoppage in play or while the referees are reviewing a play. These songs – and the artists – have earned their rest and their rightful place in the back of the discount rack. And that’s where they should stay.

Bad music just cheapens the game and we as fans do nothing about it. While we could never imagine replacing Flight of the Valkyries with the Theme from Greatest American Hero (Believe it or Not) during that climactic scene in Apocalypse Now, we have no problem tarnishing an exciting hockey game with a rousing rendition of Mambo #5.

There’s something to be said for paying the game of hockey the respect it deserves. Yes, the game’s supposed to be exciting, yes it’s supposed to be fun, but the music is supposed to enhance the on-ice product. It’s not supposed to detract from it, or, worse, attempt to steal attention away from it.

That’s why it’s time to bring back the organ to our beloved game of hockey. PlayingY.M.C.A. does nothing but distracts the fans from the on-ice action and removes them from the game. However, a few notes on an organ can ramp up the fans’ involvement in the action. An organ fanfare leading to an enthusiastic, “Charge!” increases the shared experience. No matter what your denomination, Havah Nagilah is the perfect tune to build up a fan’s enthusiasm to a rousing crescendo.

There was something majestic about the pairing of organs and hockey arenas. And with the death of the arena in Chicago Stadium in 1994 that era passed. We’ve moved from a time where arenas bore symbolic names to where a team’s home is nothing more than a commodity to be sold. That commercialization has entered into the on-ice realm as well, with this cheapening of the musical experience. The grand ol’ game of hockey is in danger of devolving into a basketball-like spectacle, where every stoppage of play must be obscured by mind-numbing, pulse-pounding music. But fans have more of an attention span than that and it’s time to take back our game – and its soundtrack.

As it stands now, the ambiance of our game is overwhelmed by the ego and alleged wit of a faceless DJ. And perhaps they remain cloaked in anonymity because they know that if we as fans could, just once, face the music – or at least the person behind the music – there’d be hell to pay. While I’m not advocating violence, there are, in fact, fates far worse than that.

Yes, as punishment, we could subject these arena DJs to an endless loop of Who Let the Dogs Out and That’s the Way I Like It. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a copy – after all, we know these DJs have them in their library!

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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