NHL players tooting their own horn with personalized goal songs

NHL players choosing their own goal songs is trending in a sport that's historically emphasized team and downplayed the individual.

The Winnipeg Jets this season are among the latest clubs to let each player pick a song to reverberate through Canada Life Centre after he scores.

"I think the fans have loved it. The players have definitely picked up on it. They've put some thought into it," said Kyle Balharry, True North Sports' senior director of game presentation.

"It's bringing a lot of personality to the game."

Sam Gagne's choice "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers gets the fans "singing it like crazy," Balharry said.

The players' selections generate social-media buzz as fans dissect both musical tastes and how a player's choice reflects his personality.

"Music is a hot topic always right?" Balharry said. "It's impossible to please everyone, but it definitely sparks conversation."

A team song blares in every NHL arena after the home side scores.

In Calgary, it's AC/DC's "T.N.T." Toronto's is “You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates. Vancouver's is Simple Minds' "Don’t You (Forget About Me).”

Winnipeg isn't abandoning that ritual.

The chronology is the goal horn is followed by the Jets' goal anthem "Gonna Celebrate" by The Phantoms, the whoosh of a jet engine and then the player's song.

That sequence provides just enough time for the in-house DJ to locate the player's song.

"In hockey, it happens so fast. Probably one of the struggles for years and reluctance from hockey teams including myself and the Jets is how to execute that," Balharry explained.

"On our scoreboard, when you're watching the replay, a graphic will come up that says, "this is my song", and we'll show the player and it'll show what song he picked," he continued.

"Then we'll put a QR code up as well. People can hold their phones up and download the Spotify list."

The Jets joined the Florida Panthers in adopting personalized goal songs this season.

The Buffalo Sabres introduced signature songs last season following the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals in 2020.

Buffalo's playlist 2.0 offers up a couple of throwbacks.

Sabres forward Jeff Skinner switched his goal song from Miley Cyrus's "Party in the U.S.A." last season to the more retro-pop "I Want To Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston.

"I just chose one that was sort of a singalong-karaoke kind of song," explained the 30-year-old from Toronto.

"To me, it's a classic. Whenever I go to a wedding or a party, it's usually one that gets the people going."

Sabres defenceman Victor Olofsson was born 16 years after the release of ABBA's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)," but the 1979 vintage dance hit is his choice at KeyBank Center.

"I just needed something Swedish," Olofsson said. "I guess I said to my girlfriend this summer, I probably want something a bit more Swedish and she came up with the ABBA song. It's just a good song."

Instead of picking their own songs, Flames' players are assigned their music that follows "T.N.T." at the Saddledome.

"The Flames did pick one for me, the AC Milan theme song," Calgary winger Milan Lucic said. "They did a really good job of that, so I'd stick with the one they picked."

The Vancouver Canucks were early adopters of personalized goal songs in 2015, but discontinued the practice after a couple of seasons.

“I don't score enough to get my own goal song, that’s for sure," Canucks forward Luke Schenn said. "I'm usually asking who (the puck) hit on the way in.”

For decades, baseball players have picked their own songs to play when they walk to home plate for their at-bat.

NBA players have signature riffs after they score, like Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet's "Yabba Dabba Doo."

The NHL has been slower to embrace an in-house entertainment element celebrating individual contributions.

"Hockey especially has been like that, focusing more on building the team than individuals," Lucic said.

"The difference is too, you know you're going to go up to bat, but you don't know you're going to score every night, so that maybe has a little bit to do with it as well.

"Thinking about guys coming out to bat, especially when I was at (Boston's) Fenway going to games, it was a pretty cool thing seeing what songs guys picked and what songs guys like. I think it's great there's that individuality now in hockey."

Canucks captain Bo Horvat, whose goal song back in 2016-17 was Young Jeezy's "Put On", takes an opposing view.

“I like having a team song," Horvat said. "It’s not about me. (Scoring’s) not an individualized thing. It's a team effort when somebody scores, so to have a team song is what I like."

Maple Leafs players have yet to choose their own goal songs, but 39-year-old defenceman Mark Giordano quipped he'd go with Jay-Z's "Young Forever."

Toronto winger Michael Bunting landed on Meek Mill's "Ima Boss", but felt teammate Mitch Marner's musical tastes were too broad to predict.

"Mitchy would be all over the place," Bunting mused. "Maybe a little Taylor Swift or something light."

If given the option during his playing career from 1979 to 1986, Flames head coach Darryl Sutter would have chosen Kris Kristofferson's 1970 classic "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down".

Why?

"Just listen to it," Sutter said.

— With files from Joshua Clipperton and Gemma Karstens-Smith.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2022.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press