TORONTO – The Maple Leafs take to the ice for their home pre-game warmups to the pulsating sounds of Kardinal Offishall’s “The Anthem,” a rousing hip-hop tribute to Toronto.
“This is where we call it home,” raps Offishall.
The song’s video—not shown at games—showcases Maple Leaf Gardens and the Air Canada centre, among other Toronto landmarks. It even features a “Go Leafs Go” message, albeit one shown on the outside of the Brass Rail strip club, which has been said to welcome more than a few pro athletes in its time.
A coincidence perhaps.
The soundtrack to the pre-game warmup is a players’ playlist. It is loud, heavy on techno and rap, and designed to get the blood pumping.
In recent games, it has showcased Offishall, followed by Jay-Z’s “Respect,” Eminem’s “The Monster,” featuring Rihanna, Avicii’s “You Make Me,”, a remix of “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Rey and Cedric Gervais, and Martin Garrix’s “Animals.”
“We just kind of come together as a group and decide what sort of (music),” said centre Tyler Bozak. “You’re never going to get everyone agreeing on every song but certain guys will make suggestions about certain songs.
“You kind of just come to a conclusion as a group as to what you want to have in there.”
The players take the ice at game time to Fall Out Boy’s anthemic “The Phoenix” with its “Put on Your Warpaint” lyric.
It seems fitting that a team with players from Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Russia has chosen a soundtrack drawn from Canada, the U.S., Sweden, the Netherlands and France.
The music has been tweaked as the season wears on. “Animals,” a pounding tune from 17-year-old Dutch DJ/producer Garrix, used to lead off the warmup.
“I’m a big fan of that song,” said the 27-year-old Bozak. “I like house, techno music a lot … A lot of guys around my age listen to that.
“It’s a fast song. A good beat to it, so I think it’s good to get in the warmup, kind of get you pumped up a bit.”
David Guetta’s “Play Hard,” featuring Ne-Yo and Akon, was in the rotation earlier in the season but has since dropped out.
The songs have a shelf life, said Bozak.
“Once you hear them every game for 30 games, you kind of get sick of it every day. So we’ll try to change it up a few times throughout the year and get some new mixes in there.”
The Leafs centre is no one-trick pony. He also likes country but concedes it wouldn’t work in a warmup.
Bozak points to Philadelphia and Tampa Bay as other NHL arenas with good music.
The sound is not to everyone’s taste, but coach Randy Carlyle isn’t complaining.
Still the 57-year-old Carlyle acknowledges the music is a long way from traditional organ stylings that used to provide the NHL soundtrack.
“Yeah but that’s the kids of today. That’s the demographics of the people that are coming to the games,” said Carlyle. “I think it’s refreshing for me. I’m a guy that grew up in the classic rock age and now this is a little bit more, I guess it’s almost techno. That’s the feel of it.
“I’ve been in a few places where they’ve played that but I don’t frequent them.”
it’s not all club music. Patrons at the ACC do still get some organ music in advance of the game.
Interviewed on HBO’s “24/7” show, Carlyle pointed to ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne as some of his music favourites.
“I think if you asked any of us to guess what type of music he listened to, we would have said those exact bands that he said,” Bozak said with a giggle.
The Leafs’ have got some attention for their victory song this season—Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop.”
While a gyrating Cyrus may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the lyrics do fit the bill—if you ignore the line about “my homegirls here with the big butt.”
“This is our rules. And we can’t stop. And we won’t stop. Can’t you see it’s we who own the night … We run things, things don’t run we. We don’t take nothing from nobody.”
Defending Miley Cyrus was clearly not on captain Dion Phaneuf’s to-do list this season, but the hard-nosed defenceman has found himself doing just that.
“We stick with what we’ve been doing,” Phaneuf said in October after when asked if there was a new victory song following a win over the visiting Ducks.
While there does seem to be a sense of fun behind the song choice, Bozak said he’s been getting stick over it “all year.”
“For some reason everyone thinks I’m the only one that had say on it and I control everything that goes on in here (the locker-room),” he said with a laugh.
“I kind of like it, I guess. It’s getting a lot of publicity,” he added. “It’s drawing a lot of attention to me so I can’t be too upset about it.”
For non-Miley fans, the song is turned off before the media enters the dressing room after games.
Follow Neil Davidson on Twitter at @NeilMDavidson