Sunday, June 15, 2008

Give Em The Lumber zine- hockey & punk!

One of the semi-regular writing gigs I've got going on is for Give Em The Lumber, a hockey-related zine done by Chris Dunlap, winger for an ice hockey team called Kwijybo & writer for the NOBOSS (Network of Bay Area Collectives) newsletter. It's a fun zine, even if you can't really find it anywhere besides local zine stores like Needles & Pens and the occasional ice hockey game @ Oakland Ice.

For GETL #2, I retrofitted my 2007 Loud Fast Rules magazine column about sports in punk music to focus solely on hockey content in punk & oi. I totally forgot about the Atom & His Package song "What Do You Do If You Weigh 1500 Pounds? You Play Goalie"- whoops! Anyway, here's the column:


Crossover between The Jocks ™ and The Punx ™ is a lot more common then you’d think. Most of the crossover comes in the more macho subgenre of oi music, since many of those bands came out of working class Britain and were fanatical soccer- er, football- fans. In terms of punk bands- not oi bands- doing sports songs, the attitudes of most punk bands from the 70s through the 90s was anti-sports (see classics like the Dead Kennedys “Jock-O-Rama.”). Despite the anti-sports attitude of most US punk bands from the late 1970s onwards, the seeds for hockey to meet up with punk in North America was already sown with the release of 1977’s hockey movie “Slapshot” starring Paul Newman.

Most obviously, the thuggish Boston band Slapshot toured starting in the 1980s with hockey sticks they brandished on stage, although they generally stayed away from writing hockey-specific songs. Their logos have included a broken goalie mask and an altered Boston Bruins logo, and much of their art and album titles have hockey references. Much later, 2 punk bands from the Northeast dropped the gloves lyrically: The Zambonis and Two Man Advantage. Personally, I like the Zambonis better- after all, they have a song that uses the Zamboni as a metaphor for love! They also cover the classic Stompin Tom Connors song “The Hockey Song” (Stompin Tom is the Johnny Cash of Canada). Two Man Advantage are harder and punkier. The Zambonis, like many of the other bands mentioned here, have played at hockey games both for charity and for profit.

Getting back to “Slapshot” the movie, I’ve gotta assume that if you’re reading this, you’re familiar with the 3 Hanson brothers, but just in case let me describe them. Totally nerdy (complete with thick taped-up glasses), the Hanson brothers are completely geeky and childish off-ice, but on-ice are complete goons who kick ass. In one unforgettable scene, they instigate a huge brawl before the game even starts! Personally, I think the attractiveness of the Hanson Brothers for the punx is summed up by these lyrics by The Freeze from their classic song “Broken Bones,” after the narrator is beaten up by rednecks at a party:

The broken bones begin to mend and the bruises slowly fade.
I feel perversely satisfied with the friends I haven’t made.
I’ve since taken up karate and I’ve bought myself a gun.
Next time they want to beat up a punk I’m going to have myself some fun!

There’s a band called The Hanson Brothers who rock, they’re a Ramones-style side project of Canadian legends Nomeansno. With 3 partially-themed hockey records under their belt, they are one of the most prolific sports-themed punk bands in terms of sheer number of songs about a particular sport. (Like The Zambonis, they also cover Stompin Tom’s “Hockey Song”) Live, they wear hockey equipment and the art combines Ramones-style graphics and ice hockey.

Staying in the great white north, it’d be criminal for me not to mention another long-running Canadian punk band- DOA. Like soccer and the British oi scene, hockey seems to permeate the culture enough that there’s not even a need to have a lot of songs specifically about the sport. DOA sold DOA hockey jerseys for years before putting out any tunes that were actually about hockey. The first one may have been 2000’s “Give ‘Em The Lumber” from their ‘Festival of Atheists’ release. Another long-running Vancouver band, The Smugglers, have their own ice hockey team which plays in an annual ice hockey tournament against other Canadian underground bands in Toronto.

The Hanson Brothers are also the organizers of the Puck Rock compilation series which came out in 1994 and 2000, and featured hockey songs from bands from both the US and Canada, including The Hanson Brothers, DOA, SNFU, Muscle Bitches, Huevos Rancheros, The Riverdales (aka the Screeching Weasel Ramones side project), Pansy Division, The Smugglers, and a cover of wrestler Freddie Blassie’s “Pencil Necked Geek” by DOA leader Joey Shithead with Canadian indie popsters Cub. Pansy Division- the famous homocore band from San Francisco- mention hockey in both their ode to the mullet “Hockey Hair” and their ode to Canadian beefcake “Manada”!

Heading into the late 1990s and back south of the Canuckistan border to Beantown, this next band probably needs no introduction to fans of current punk rock or oi. The Dropkick Murphys have done baseball (“Tessie”), boxing (“Warrior’s Code”), and hockey (“Time To Go”). They’ve used Boston Bruins soundclips as far back as the 1997 version “Caps And Bottles.” Their song “Nutty” is the Boston Bruins theme song, and they’ve played during and after Bruins games and done charity work for the team.

Speaking of punk or oi songs that are officially sanctioned by a major league team, the last on my list is The Boils, from Philadelphia. The Flyers heard the band’s ode to the team, “(Broad Street) Bullies,” and asked them to write a new anthem for the team. That became the title track of their new 2007 cdep on TKO Records, “The Orange and The Black.” Now, the band is playing at Flyers games in addition to their regular shows.

This is a short look at hockey and the punk rock, but these are the most prolific and talented hockey-loving weirdoes. I’m sure I’ve missed some bands, but hockey seems to be one of the only sports that punk & indie bands write a lot of songs about. Oddly enough (or maybe not so oddly since these others are SO mainstream) more popular sports in the US like American football, baseball, and basketball have little or no representation in the scene.

- Jesse Luscious, goalie

P.S.- Don’t be fooled: the Minnesota indie band Hockey Night has absolutely zero songs about hockey. What a waste of a name!

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