When most people hear the name Rob Zombie, they likely think of the musician behind mega-hits such as ‘More Human Than Human’, or the film auteur who directed cult classics The Devil’s Rejects and the reinvented Halloween horror franchise.
What they probably don’t know is that Zombie is a serious hockey fan. And the 44-year-old Massachusetts native has some serious concerns about the way the game is marketed.
“I think they’ve cleaned up the game too much,” Zombie told TheHockeyNews.com as he prepared to kick off a 28-date concert tour – in support of his new album Hellbilly Deluxe 2 – that begins Oct. 29 in Phoenix. “Everybody I know says, ‘you know, it’s not like it was in the ’70s.’ ”
When he lived full-time in Los Angeles, Zombie attended virtually every Kings home game and befriended many of the team’s players, including Jason Allison, Jaroslav Modry and Sean Avery.
He had grown up in the Boston area as a dedicated supporter of the Bruins – collecting autographs from legends like Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson that he still has today – but Zombie’s experience getting to know Kings players made him appreciate their daily physical sacrifices all the more.
It also got him wondering why the NHL doesn’t underscore the game’s gritty elements in the promotion of its product.
“For a while there I was friends with so many guys on the Kings, we’d hang out, and you can see the spirit of the players is the same, it’s just the way they market it that’s different now,” Zombie said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the big dollars and family entertainment, but in recent years they’ve used pictures of the Kings (ice) girls with cutoff shirts to promote (the team). I was like, ‘What the f---?’
“What the Kings should have done – and the NHL can use this slogan if they like –– was take somebody like Ian Laperriere when he was still on the team, have a big portrait of his face, smiling with no teeth and his big, messed-up nose, and the slogan – ‘You think you’re tough? KINGS.’
“People don’t understand how tough those guys are. I mean, they make football players look like they’re doing nothing. Hockey players play so motherf---ing hard all the time, and I don’t think people get it. And they don’t market it that way.
“Hockey is just hardcore, and they’ve taken the edge off it. Obviously, when they brought helmets in it is harder to see the players and you don’t want guys cracking open their skulls all day long. But there’s a reason people love the movie Slap Shot who don’t love hockey – the spirit of that movie is the spirit of the game, but you don’t see that anymore.”
Zombie’s public image is that of a disheveled wildman – and if you’ve seen the movies he’s directed, you know he doesn’t hold back when it comes to gore.
But one of the most fascinatingly frightening aspects of Zombie’s childhood - long before the Jason character (and his famous white mask) from Friday The 13th entered the public lexicon – were NHL goaltenders and their colorful, creative masks.
“I was so into goalies as a kid – guys like Bernie Parent, Gerry Cheevers,” Zombie said. “But when they took away the masks and went to the cages, I was so disappointed, because as a little kid, even before Friday The 13th ever existed, I thought those masks were so scary and so cool, and they gave each team this bizarre monster that was in their net.
“I loved that. I know why they don’t go back to those masks, but I wish they did.”
With the news Clerks director Kevin Smith is set to make a movie based around a hockey-themed song by the late Warren Zevon, Zombie was asked if his fans might someday see him comment artistically on the game in one of his songs or films.
“Maybe, yeah,” Zombie said. “We’re always talking about different things. And they always play so much of my music at the Staples Center and other venues. For four or five years, the Kings would always enter onto the ice to one of my songs. I thought that was pretty awesome.”
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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