Hockey is a sport defined by its passion, intensity, and creativity. Fans of the game span the globe from Texas to Brazil, Hawai’i to Kenya, and beyond. Despite an exciting amount of growth in the past 30 years, hockey is still considered an underdog sport. There are many reasons for that being the case, including those environmental, financial, or social. It is relatively rare below the 35th parallel north, where the snow stops falling. For many folks, hockey is that sport they play in Mighty Ducks or Miracle, or just something people do in the winter when the ponds freeze over. Some places flat out have no concept of it. To some it is a hobby, whether watching or playing it. And to others it is a lifestyle, an identity even.
It is this aspect of hockey fandom that is so relatable to that of heavy music. Rock, metal, punk, any form of it. The excitement of discovering it often grows into a lifelong passion, and can become part of one’s personality. Heavy or otherwise alternative music draws fans that typically favor interests on the more obscure side of the spectrum, or things that are more stimulating than others. Liking those things can make people feel unique, for better or worse. But it is not for the sake of it. Hockey, like metal or punk, is raw, it’s real, and it’s physically expressive and that will always attract fans of latter to it. No matter how much pressure there appears to be, hockey will always be loved for its physicality in net-front mosh pits and center-ice scraps.
Both communities share a tradition of humility when it comes to their craft. Front-men and -women take a moment to shout out bandmates and thank the fans every show, and you’ll never hear a hockey player miss a chance to credit their teammates for success either. Passion for the craft will always outweigh individual achievements. Camaraderie, as well, is a feature that is shared in both hockey and the heavy music community. Even in terms of all team sports like football or basketball, few require the level of bonding that hockey does for success. Additionally, as less popular interests, the fans of these communities value those who share their passion. Some teams could sure use a few more metalheads and punks on their team.
Both interests create an opportunity to manage negative energy in a healthy way. Both are extreme forms of their medium. There’s a reason the hard rock songs are always the best songs from Chel soundtracks, and the best songs played in the arenas. Nevertheless, despite being the perfect matchup for competitive energy and aggression, hearing a metal song in the locker room was a rare occasion in my experience.
Highlight/pump-up videos usually require tunes with a certain level of intensity. How about some thrash metal? Skate punk? Viking metal? Skol! The creative limits of heavy and alternative music are basically non-existent compared to the pop, rap, and country that dominate the airwaves. That’s not to say those genres suck, and I can understand wanting to be marketable to a wide audience, but they don’t always match the energy of a hockey game. Perhaps some Misfits or Guns N’ Roses? What better way to market the game than to draw those in who don’t mind some high-paced violence? I also have to give credit to some arenas, like the Verizon Center (D.C.) and American Airlines Center (Dallas), who play a lot of metal between whistles, as well as the SAP Center (San Jose) who have even hosted Metallica to play the anthem in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
They are the spaghetti and meatballs of sports and music, the peanut butter and jelly, shampoo and conditioner…they just make sense together (unless you’re from England where PB&J is weird). The Battle of Alberta is basically a Knocked Loose music video.
There are a lot of hockey fans out there that don’t know they love it yet. Even growing up in New York, hockey was still a sport that didn’t exist at every school, with many towns combining to form one team in the high school league. I remember hearing “we have a hockey team?” as often as I’d hear “you call that music?”. Yes, I would, and many others would, too, including some cool dudes from Long Island (and beyond) that found a way to combine their passion for both hockey and alternative music by starting a podcast, The Bardown Breakdown!
These members of The Hockey Podcast Network can perfectly introduce themselves:
“Power chords and crashing boards. Mikey, Tom, and Justin talk music, hockey, and anything else that gets in their way. Tom and Mikey are lifelong friends that grew up on Long Island during the glory days of alternative music where our local bands were As Tall As Lions, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Bayside, The Sleeping, Envy on the Coast, you get the point. We spent many nights together at The Downtown, catching any pop-punk, indie, hardcore, or emo band that came through. This was not a phase, Mom! Fast forward 20 years and we are still just as passionate about the scene as we were during our girl jeans and youth XL band tees days. Tom and Mikey are diehard New York Islanders fans, but Justin (Bolts fan) likes to remind us that we are #notanislespodcast. As we got older, we realized we can like more than one thing and running beside our love for music has always been our love for hockey. We have realized we are not alone in this thinking, actually there are many of us that love these two things! This podcast explores just how connected they are!”
“The idea behind Bardown Breakdown came to Mikey after many late night pick-up hockey games on Long Island with the boys of Envy on the Coast. As word got out, the games grew with guys from other Long Island bands. Behind those skinny jeans and tattoos were guys who were just as passionate about hockey as Mikey. Have you been to a show lately and noticed all of the hockey jerseys? They did, too. And that’s when they realized this niche group of hockey and punk-rock fans expanded far beyond Long Island.”
I first discovered these guys on Apple podcasts a few years ago in my search for any form of metal and hockey community, in particular. They have had numerous great musicians on their podcast that love the game, including Mike Hranica of The Devil Wears Prada and his own hockey brand, Hacksaw Hockey, and Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red. You may recognize Jake from the most recent Winter Classic at Fenway Park when things began changing in his life after a Wayne Gretzky handshake and a Bruins goal immediately after. Jake also organized the Heart Support Hockey Day of 2019 in Pennsylvania, a charity hockey game with players like Riley Cote and Stephan Matteau (and fans like myself) to benefit mental health support efforts. They’ve also been joined by Steve Schurr, the man responsible for curating the NHL EA Sports soundtracks.
This week, Tom, Mikey, and Justin will celebrate their 200th episode of Bardown Breakdown with special guest, Ryan Mendez of Yellowcard! That’s a huge milestone for the pod and the hockey and music community altogether. Credit to them for bringing people together to celebrate shared interests that don’t get a lot of love elsewhere. Show them some love on Spotify (along with a playlist of theirs), Apple, Anchor, and Google. https://bardownbreakdown.com/
In more exciting news for the fellas, they are hosting the second annual Bardown Breakfest this June 30th and July 1st! It will be held at the Milestone in Charlotte, North Carolina, so if you have a chance to make it over there then join them for some great bands and great times. Tickets are on sale now (click on the poster for the link to purchase). Mikey is also a leader in the Isles Meetups organization, as well, so be on the lookout for Isles gatherings at your local bars and barns!
In addition to the wonderful guests of Bardown Breakdown, there are some other notable figures in the heavy music world that are known to be big hockey fans, such as Corey Beaulieu of Trivium (Pens fan), Tim Howley of Fit for an Autopsy (Isles fan), Jay Weinberg of Slipknot (Devils/Preds fan), and Rob Zombie. Rob discussed his fascination with the Broad Street Bullies era in Philadelphia during his appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience, stating that he even tried to make a movie about it. The members of Pantera were noted Dallas Stars fans, as well, remaining friendly with the players and partying with them after they won the Cup. Pantera even wrote them a theme song that is still used today. Some stories about that can be heard on Craig Ludwig’s interview on the Cam and Strick Podcast (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0Gcl-6hb_Q). In addition, here is a list of NHL-ers who fancy themselves metalheads:https://thisdayinmetal.com/2023/03/21/18-past-or-present-nhl-players-who-love-heavy-metal-music/: Heavy Metal Hockey: The Cosmic Alliance of Hockey and Heavy Music, and the Bardown Breakdown’s 200th Episode
Several bands have even released hockey jerseys, including Gojira, Amon Amarth, Testament, and August Burns Red (which I happily own). One Boston hardcore band, Slapshot, features an old school hockey brawl as the cover art for their Old Tyme Hardcore album. Several members of Meshuggah dawn NHL jerseys in their music video for the song “New Millenium Cyanide Christ”.
Of course, there is value in all music, but the hockey and heavy music cultures share a lot of traditions and mindsets that will always be alluring to each other. So don’t be afraid to give it a chance if you need an extra kick.
In addition to the one made by the Bardown Breakdown boys, I decided to make a playlist of my own with these bands and more that I believe capture the energy of hockey. Use it to get pumped up, use it for highlights and goal songs, or use it just to find new music. Enjoy it all the same, and stay metal.