Friday, March 8, 2013

Stompin' Tom for the Hall?

I don't know if anyone's collecting Memories of Stompin' Tom Connors, but I have one. I have to confess, I was not a fan and after "Hockey Night", I can't recall any of his other songs, aside for one about bugs that I heard when I was in Nova Scotia in 1974. But there was something one couldn't help liking about his music and the things he wrote about: his love for the country was genuine and contagious.

I'll tell you this much: I'd love to write a song that practically everybody in an entire country knows and will sing at the drop of a hat, and that's the basis of my "Stompin' Tom Memory".

It was the 2006 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, and I was the French-language PA announcer. (I've spent the years since then, trying to convince Hockey Canada that I actually can speak French, and indeed, my ability in that has improved greatly, thanks in large part to my being the porte-parole for TransLink, as far as Radio-Canada was concerned. But I digress ...) In the Gold Medal Final, Canada absolutely shut down the Russians (including Evgeny Malkin), and bulled their way to a 5-0 win.

Of course, General Motors Place (as Rogers Arena was called at the time) was rocking, and during a play stoppage late in the game, the DJ, Dave Levinsohn, put on "Hockey Night". 18,000 fans clapped and sang along. The puck was dropped, and Dave killed the music, as he was required to. The singing continued, unabated, long after play had resumed. It was a very cool moment and got me thinking about the song itself: there are few songs in this country as recognizable and singable, and that make total strangers bond, as the "Hockey Song" -- and that's a legacy to which just about every songwriter aspires. 

In the outpouring that usually accompanies the passing of someone most people just plain liked, there's a movement afoot to honor Tom in the Hockey Hall of Fame. That might be a bit arch, but it got me thinking: maybe the Hall should have a section that showcases the ways hockey has been included in our culture. I remember back in the 70s, Hockey Night in Canada serialized a ghastly 1930s movie called "The King of Hockey" and that pretty much summed up the extent of hockey in the movies. But there's been a lot since then, and if I were to put the exhibit together (I CALL DIBS!), it would include:
  • Stompin' Tom (of course)
  • Dolores Claman, composer of the Hockey Night in Canada theme (now TSN's hockey theme -- don't start me on that one!)
  • Paul Newman and Slap Shot
  • Roch Carrier and "The Hockey Sweater"
OK, those are the obvious ones. I might add the movie "The Rocket/Le Rocket" to the list, if only for its terrific hockey action scenes, but sadly, it veered off into a theme of "look how rotten les maudits anglais are towards French-Canadians", and I don't know how relevant that theme is anymore -- and do we really need to be re-educated about that?

Anyway, there are others, like:
  • Tom Cochrane for "Big League" (a song about Brian Spencer)
  • The Tragically Hip for "Mission 50 Cap" (a song that makes reference to Bill Barilko and the Leafs)
  • Meryl Streep and Michael Moriarty in the TV Movie "The Deadliest Season" (how many people know that was Meryl's first lead role?)
  • Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie in "Away From Her" -- one of the residents in an extended-care home where Julie's character goes to live is a former Winnipeg Jets play-by-play announcer, and when they watch hockey on TV, they turn down the audio and let him call the action.
(Actually, Dolores Claman scores twice in the category of Iconic Compositions. Not only do 99 44/100% of Canadians know "dum-da-DUM-da-dum/dum-da-DUM-da-dum", but people from Ontario still know "A Place To Stand/A Place To Grow (Ontari-ari-ari-o)" -- even those who weren't even born when the song came out for the 1967 Centennial.)

Anyway, those are just the ones off the top of my head. With some more research, there may be other cultural references to hockey -- maybe Alex Colville or someone in the Group of 7 painted either a hockey scene or something with hockey in the background?

Might be worth some thought at the Hall.