July 17, 2008
When the public is given the opportunity to cast a vote, the inherent danger for the establishment is that absurd inspiration will creep into the zeitgeist, and a countercultural movement will begin. This is how cartoon characters receive votes for President of the United States. Or how Sanjaya Malakar threatened to demolish every wholesome tenet of "American Idol."
Hockey fans are especially guilty of this mischievous behavior. Witness the Vote For Rory campaign, in which fans flooded the ballot box and nearly sent journeyman defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick to the NHL All-Star Game as a write-in candidate. Now it's the CBC's "Canada's Hockey Anthem Challenge," which seeks to find new music to be featured on "Hockey Night in Canada," that's facing an unpredictable insurgency.
The contest entry is "Hockey Scores," and it is the most-viewed (23,075 as of Wednesday night) and second highest-rated (4/5 stars) song in the anthem gallery. Based on the numbers, this collection of animal sounds, gun shots and babies crying could be your new Hockey Night in Canada theme song ... and the winner of $100,000 (CDN):
What might seem like 30 seconds of auditory insanity is now a full-fledged fan movement. "Hockey Scores" has been picked up by blogs, by Torontoist and has an official Facebook page with 297 members. There are now even YouTube remixes of the theme, like this one featuring Don Cherry. If the CBC secretly hoped that this is a passing fad, think again: They said the same thing about "Vote for Rory" until he finished about 36,000 votes behind Nicklas Lidstrom in the all-star voting.
Logan Aube, the creator of "Hockey Scores," said that the song has been taken down and put back up twice by the CBC's Web site. Recently, the song suddenly disappeared from the "Canada's Hockey Anthem Challenge," then it was reinstated, and then Aube received an e-mail from the CBC apologizing for the removal -- placing the blame on a "third party moderator."
Puck Daddy got in touch with Aube to find out how "Hockey Scores" was started, how this movement came about and why Ron MacLean could soon be featured on the same broadcast with crying babies and farm animals.
My first question was simply, "What was the inspiration behind Hockey Scores?" Aube's answer says it all:
"My love for hockey is reflected quite well in this piece I feel. The intense percussion symbolizes the hard-hitting excitement of the sport, while the cat samples are used to demonstrate the feline qualities players must possess: speed, cunning, agility, and fearlessness. The other animal noises reflect the rich domestic history of the sport; I remember my grandfather who grew up on a farm used to freeze a rink in their field every year so that they could play the game, while the animals watched on.
"The happy child was used to symbolize the child-like wonder many Canadians feel every time they turn on this great game. The climax of the piece brings it all together, bringing the excitement to its peak and then finishing it off with a buzzer. Goal!"
In summary: Hockey players are fearless like house cats, farm animals love pond hockey and crying babies symbolize Canadian hockey fans. You know, this is all starting to make a lot of sense ...
Aube wasn't worried that this rather abstract approach to a hockey theme -- refresh your palate with the original HNIC theme for a moment (video) -- wouldn't make the cut. "From the start, I knew I had something special. There does appear to be a screening process for entries, but I was confident in the quality of my piece."
Aube said the reaction and support for the song has been "surprising." There are many, many other options on the CBC's contest page vying for the right to be heard on Hockey Night in Canada. And according to the official rules, all of this support might not be enough, because the winner is not up to the fans: "Until Semi-Finalists are revealed on October 4, 2008, 'ratings,' 'recommendations,' 'most viewed,' and other similar information will be available on the website, but will only be a factor for the Producer and Judges to consider in selecting Semi-Finalists. Semi-Finalists will be revealed in a CBC broadcast on October 4, 2008."
So why has the voting public gravitated to this little ditty?
"I would say that the viewers decided it is time for a change, and understood the vision I had for the future of hockey," said Aube. "I am very proud to say I have been a part of fulfilling the public's vision."
This e-mail interview, and this entire "Hockey Scores" hilarity, brought me back to my interview with Steve Schmid, the guy who started the whole Vote for Rory campaign.
Like "Hockey Scores," that movement started as a goof on the Something Awful boards. "You can't pick a guy like Belak or [Donald] Brashear because people hate them," Schmid said at the time. "Who can hate a guy like Rory Fitzpatrick, other than a couple of disgruntled Sabres fans?"
Right now, the "Hockey Scores" movement is pure anarchist comedy, with posts like these from Something Awful orchestrating a campaign: "For those who haven't posted a comment to the submission, take the ‘convincer' angle. That is, say how much it disturbed you or you didn't get it or whatever. Then you listened to it for awhile and now you LOVE it. See if we can convince others to come to the same conclusion."
But will it remain a comedic charade? A curious thing happened during the Vote for Rory movement: What was a goof to some became a political statement for others, as fans voted for Fitzpatrick as a way to honor the blue-collar players in the NHL that never got a sniff of the all-star game otherwise.
I'm not saying that thousands of fans are listening to "Hockey Scores" and saying, "Finally, someone makes the tacit connection between my childlike infatuation with hockey and farm animals! Here's my vote, sir!"
The point is that even if someone is writing in Stephen Colbert for mayor of Sioux City, there's some meaning behind that vote, beyond the obvious laugh factor.
In other words: When "Hockey Scores" shoots to the top of the charts, perhaps the CBC has only itself to blame for ticking off the viewing public and creating the opportunity for a cacophony of sheep, cats and gun shots to hit the top of the charts.