Initially released in 1973, The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors has been delighting hockey fans for decades. Played nightly in arenas across the country, the song has become immortalized as a classic Canadian tune.
The late singer’s iconic song was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame during an event at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday afternoon. Connors’s son, Tom Connors Jr., said he’s glad his father’s song is getting recognition from the organization.
“I’ve had little time to prepare mentally about this . . . [but] I’m extremely happy for today,” he said. “I’ve seen many events similar to this growing up, and this is one that is extra special.”
The catchy tune, which celebrates the game of hockey, was first released on Stompin’ Tom’s ninth album, Stompin’ Tom and the Hockey Song. Initially, the song was nothing more than a cult favourite enjoyed by Connors’s fans.
It wasn’t until the early ‘90s that the song gained fame as Canadian NHL teams, including the Ottawa Senators, the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, began playing the song regularly during their games.
Former Leafs legend Wendel Clark, who was competing in the NHL when the song was first played at Maple Leaf Gardens, said that hearing the song makes him feel right at home.
“That’s part of the experience in Toronto, [if] you’re coming to the Leaf game,” he said. “It’s been a part of hockey here in Toronto, so to me, really, it means [a] home game.”
From there, the song spread rapidly across professional hockey rinks in Canada and the United States, where fans would passionately sing along. The song also caught the attention of many Canadian musicians, including Tim Hicks, who said the song became a part of his catalogue from the start of his career.
Hicks was invited to perform the song at the ceremony and said he felt nervous coming into the event.
“I can handle an arena, I can handle 5,000 people or 40,000 people on a festival stage,” he said. “But standing up there and singing you know what could be considered the second national anthem of Canada, in front of the media and in front of Tom Jr. and his family, that’s nerve-wracking for anybody.
“Those kinds of moments you’re always chasing in your career, so I was just fortunate enough to have one of those today,” said Hicks.
Connors died in 2013 at the age of 77, and by then the song was as iconic as the sport itself. Connors Jr. and his family waited over five years since his death for the song to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The organization’s executive director, Vanessa Thomas, says they’ve wanted to induct the song into the Hall of Fame for quite some time.
“I mean, it really takes all of the pieces coming together to induct a song,” she said. “We have songs from decades past that are worthy of being inducted, but this is an iconic anthem, Canadian anthem, and it was time.”
The process for getting to the ceremony began about a year ago when Thomas told the Connors family the song would be inducted. Since then, she said the organization had been preparing for Saturday’s event.
Following a video tribute and a speech, Connors Jr. was presented with a plaque from Thomas. During the first intermission of Saturday night’s game between the Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets, he also received a special Stompin’ Tom Leafs jersey from Clark.
Connors Jr. says the wait was well worth it for his father and his family, stressing the importance of the event beyond the rewards.
“For how long it takes to get the accolades from it, it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all have a responsibility in the entertainment music business to keep Canada high in regard.
“One day if the country likes what you’re doing, you’ll be shown days like today, appreciating what you’ve done many years ago.”
Later in the evening, during the second period of Saturday night’s game, Hicks performed a shortened version of the song. Upon completion, he received a roaring ovation from the fans at Scotiabank Arena.
To Hicks, the song means the world, and he said he was honoured to be invited to the event.
“It’s been in my set for as long as I can remember and it’s an iconically Canadian song,” he said. “Every time you bust it out, you can feel that in your bones, which is [what’s] really exciting about it.”
Thomas echoed these sentiments, saying that any hockey fan is sure to know the tune.
“It’s the fabric of our DNA and I think we’re prouder to be Canadian than we ever have been,” she said. “My kids are young and they know the song, and it’s played at NHL games both sides of the border.”
With the song now officially recognized by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, there doesn’t appear to be any signs its usage will decrease. For Clark, he hopes it stays that way.
“I think you always want to see tradition go along. That’s part of being a part of the game,” he said. “Music stands the test of time. So that’s why you want to keep hearing it or seeing it.”
While The Hockey Song may only be getting its long-deserved accolades now, Connors Jr. hopes Saturday’s ceremony inspires other Canadian songwriters to create more music about Canada.
“Events like this are needed to get the word out there to other songwriters that if Stompin’ Tom could do it, you can do it too,” he said. “It helps give our country an identity that will last for generations when you can put that identity in song.”