As told to: Dave Bidini
IAN TURNBULL: I’ve played guitar since I was 11 years old. My sister played the piano and she hated it, so I started to plink around on it, and that led to guitar. I’m self-taught. I grew up with Brian Greenaway from April Wine. We went to highschool together. We’d sit in my room and he’d show me how to play E and A and G, and that’s how I started. I also jammed around with the Dionne twins who played with Champagne, as well as musician Kenny McBride. When I came to Toronto, I was introduced to Doug Riley (Dr. Music) through Bob Lucier, the pedal steel guitarist who played with Tommy Hunter. I used to hang out in the studios in Toronto with Moe Koffman, Tommy Ambrose, Mary Trudell. We’d go down to Harry’s Steakhouse with Lightfoot, and hang out with the Good Brothers. I used to jam with Terry Clements and the legendary Red Shea, Lighfoot’s guitar player. I went to every concert at the Gardens, and, before that, the Forum. You couldn’t keep me away. I lived for music, and, in a way, I still do.
FRED STANFIELD: Schoney was the biggest Beatles fan I’ve ever seen in my life. He knew every Beatles song written. He and Jimmy Lorentz would bring their guitars up to the room and we’d have a few beers and sing. Big Bert (Gilbert Perrault) was another entertainer, too. He’d been singing his entire life, and when he’d break out his Elvis, people were just in awe. They were floored by this guy, by how good he was.
GARY GREEN: When I was coaching Washington, a lot of celebrities would drop by: Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen. When Springsteen showed up, I let him and Clarence Clemons into the dressing room. I went to my office for a while, and when I came back Bruce had dressed Clemens up in Mike Palmateer’s mask, pads and goalie gear.
JEFF JACKSON: Al Iafrate was nuts about music. From the second he showed up, you could tell that he was a different dude. Russ Courtnall, Al and I lived together in the Westbury Hotel. Before going to the game, we’d meet in one of our rooms and Al would play this tape really loud on his ghetto blaster– Morris Day and the Time– and we’d walk over to the Gardens.
YURI BLINOV: Valeri Kharlamov was a deep, soulful person. He loved to sing and play the guitar. His mother was Spanish, so there was always lots of music in his house. It was Valeri’s idea to go record shopping in Toronto in 1972. We’d been given 150 dollars spending money during our time in Canada, so we had to invent ways to bring things back. Valeri decided to trade a Soviet banner for records, so we went down to this big store in Toronto (Sam the Record Man), and got to pick out three LPs each. Me, I chose Tom Jones, because he was my favourite. I got to see him perform once in New York, at Madison Square Gardens. At the end of the show, there was a riot. Everybody was jumping on stage, so I did, too. The day before, the Red Army had played against Team USA on the ice, and the next evening I was standing up there with Tom Jones, going crazy in front of all these people.
TODD HARTJE: In sports, as in life, music is a universal language. One night during my season playing with Sokol Kiev in Russia, we were having a little bit of a blowout at the basa– which is what we called our residence with the team– because the coaches and managers had all gone home. The players who were left behind invited some of their lady friends over, who had to climb through the window of my room to get in. A party started to happen and the guys wanted some music, so they said: “Benatar! Benatar! Pat Benatar!” Until this point, I’d felt like a fish out of water and was finding it difficult to establish my place within the social rank of the team, but once I put that tape on, things started to change. When the song ended, they’d take the tape and rewind it using their finger or a pencil; it wasn’t until later that I realized they were saving batteries by doing this manually. The whole scene brought me right back to Harvard, to dancing at a party with my friends. The Russian dance moves were a bit different and the refreshments were vodka and salty fish, but it was one of those moments that took our friendship to another level. We were all just a bunch of buddies sharing a good time, grooving to Pat Benetar in the middle of the Russian nowhere.
BRAD DALGARNO: With the Islanders, my stall was right next to the stereo. There was a lot of inconsistency in the music, and it was killing me. So I’d go home and make mixed tapes, thinking it through in terms of rhythm and flow, getting some energy going in the room. Darius Kasparitus loved these tapes, but because he’d come from Lithuania, everything was new and exciting. It didn’t matter if it was Lionel Richie or Frank Sinatra or Beck: it was all new. One day, he was so excited about something that he ran from the door of the dressing room, almost falling into the stereo. He was shouting: “You’ve got to hear this music!! It’s so amazing!” We were all excited because Darius was excited. He fussed with the machine for awhile and finally got it working. When he pressed play, the music started and it was “Have You Seen the Love Tonight” by Elton John from “The Lion King” soundtrack. It was so not a dressing room song and we told him this in simple terms. He couldn’t figure out why we thought it was such a piece of crap. He kept harping: “But it’s so good! Listen. It’s fantastic!” I think he was crushed that we couldn’t get behind it.
JOHN HALLIGAN: Tiny Tim- who was born Herbert Khaury in Washington Heights– was a huge fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was a regular whenever the Leafs visited Madison Square Garden in the ‘60s. His dishevelled appearance, falsetto voice, unkempt hair, and shopping bags crammed full of God-knows-what tended to disrupt fans in the side promenade, flush against the dasher boards. After he arrived at a game, a lot of people got up and moved elsewhere.
PAT HICKEY: As a child of the 60s, I had to find my own path to freedom, which, in my case, meant getting out of Brantford. Some people did it by playing the piano or the guitar; others did it on hockey skates. Rock and roll proved to young people that you could see the world and have fun doing it. I studied the words to “Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to see what was in there and what I could learn from it. One of my English teachers spent a month teaching us the inside and outside of “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, and by the time I made pro, I followed Neil Young and Jackson Browne and the way they sang about politics, love, divorce, everything. When I was drafted by New York, I saw the city as a way of extending this sense of discovery because so much was happening there every hour of the day. I went to galleries, saw plays, concerts, a little bit of everything. I remember going to see “Man of La Mancha” on the Wednesday matinee after the morning skate and thinking, “Man, these singers, actors, dancers, musicians are working it. They’re prepared, they’re into it.” Three hours later, I got to stand in front of 17, 000 people and do my thing. The way I viewed it, the rink was my stage and the fans were my audience. The following year, I was eating in a restaurant when a fellow came up and asked if I’d like to join his table, where Margeaux and Muriel Hemingway were sitting. Of course, I accepted, and during dinner, I invited them to come and see me play. They were all giddy and excited about it. The next night, I remember going out for warm up and skating hard across the rink– I always liked to hit the ice fast– and seeing the two of them sitting right across from me. That night, I scored two goals and two assists, and realized that maybe having someone famous in the crowd was what I needed to give me that extra boost. Billy Joel was the person I brought in the most. I’d sneak him into the corporate box. His song “Sleeping with the TV on” is about his relationship with me and Mike McEwen and the Rangers. One time, he asked me what a hockey player’s routine was, and I told him: “Our job is to go back to the hotel room, get off your feet, lay down, and fall asleep with the tv on.” I’d never thought of hockey as poetry before, but all you have to do is see it from the other side to know that it is.
DAVE BIDINI is the co-creator of ‘Slapshot Diaries’ as well as a writer/musician/columnist from Toronto and the author of 12 books.
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