Award-winning goaltender Ken Dryden described The Hockey Song best, as “… a celebration – of a team, a game. Us.”
The Hockey Song was first released in 1973 by Tom Connors’s own company, Boot Records, and by Capitol Records, on his album “Stompin’ Tom and The Hockey Song” (BOS 7112). An action shot of a National Hockey League game was pictured on the cover of the album. The song was also featured on the A side of a 45-rpm single (BT-066).
The Hockey Song is an up-tempo number with a cowboy-booted backbeat, its tempo reflecting the swift pace of the game. In Connors’s typical catchy novelty-song style, his three verses correspond to the three periods of a hockey game, each verse calling the action like a play-by-play announcer. It’s this familiar structure that so endears the song to fans, celebrating Canada’s hockey tradition by harkening back to the days of CBC hockey announcer Foster Hewitt right from the opening line (“Hello out there, we’re on the air, it’s Hockey Night tonight”). And in an irresistible happy ending, the home town triumphantly wins the game.
It was nearly 20 years after its release before The Hockey Song achieved its current national fame, when in 1992 the new Ottawa Senators NHL team began using the song at their home games. The Toronto Maple Leafs followed suit, then American teams. The song became a regular third-period feature at Maple Leaf home games. Ken Dryden described its effect on his team: “I love The Hockey Song. On a bad night, the song was a brief respite. On a night that might go either way, it was a jolt of energy. But on a good night when everything was cooking, it was fantastic.”
The Hockey Song also appears on Connors’s gold album “Live at the Horseshoe,” recorded in November 1973 at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern. Connors later recorded an updated version for his 2008 album, “The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom.”
Upon Connors’s death in March 2013, compliments flowed in. From former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf: “That’s probably the greatest hockey song ever made.” From former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson: “It is a great song that will live on forever.” Its popularity driven by that year’s infamous NHL player lockout, it reached No. 29 on Billboard’s Canadian Hot 100 chart on March 23, 2013, a few weeks after his death.
Connors’s hockey anthem has been recorded by artists as diverse as contemporary country’s Corb Lund, country-bluegrass veterans The Good Brothers, and pop punk singer Avril Lavigne. Connors observed: “I think it’s great because when I was younger myself I used to sing a lot of songs of other people that I really liked…. Hank Williams and Hank Snow … Wilf Carter and those guys…. It makes me feel great they would do it.”
The Hockey Song is the best-known example of Connors’s unique brand of fervent nationalism. He was often invited to perform it at NHL games, and it became CTV Sportsnet’s NHL theme song. It appears on several recordings of hockey-related music, and is the subject of two illustrated children’s books. On screen, it was featured in the film “Slap Shot 3” and television’s “Corner Gas” and “Power Play.”
Country singer-songwriter and Canadian nationalist Stompin’ Tom Connors (1936 – 2013) was born in Saint John, New Brunswick. He won six Juno awards between 1971 and 1975 and was honoured with many lifetime achievement awards including a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. Other Canadiana songs Connors was known for include Bud the Spud, Big Joe Mufferaw, and Sudbury Saturday Night.