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The Hockey World Honours Gord Downie

If you saw the Leafs-Red Wings game last night, you’ll know that there was a moment of silence for Gord Downie before the puck dropped.

The broadcast also featured Hip songs going into commercial breaks.

Then there was this:

The Hockey News prepared this:

Gord Downie, the iconic frontman for the Canadian rock ‘n’ roll band The Tragically Hip, passed away on Tuesday night after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was a lifelong hockey fan, which was reflected in the songs that he sang and the lives that he touched.

The Detroit Red Wings might have the least Canadian roster in the NHL. Of the 22 players who currently make up the team, only six of them grew up in Canada. Yet, when they got off the ice after their morning skate on Wednesday, the quintessential Canadian band was playing on the team’s sound system. It was the same thing in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ workout room just down the hall at the Air Canada Centre. And there’s a good chance the sounds of The Tragically Hip have been playing in 29 other NHL dressing rooms today, too.

The Hip, whose frontman Gord Downie died Tuesday night after a long battle with brain cancer, have always had an inexorable connection with hockey. So when it was announced Downie had died, it was as though the entire NHL, nay the entire hockey world, was in mourning. It wasn’t just because Downie was once a promising goalie who later became a rock star. (He actually wrote metaphorically about playing goal in a song called The Lonely End of the Rink.) The connection was much deeper than that. The Tragically Hip didn’t just sing about hockey, they had a tie to the game and its players and fans that was unique and enduring.

Of course, the Canadian thing had a lot to do with that. But it’s probably that NHL players saw a lot of themselves in Gord Downie. Or as the NHL Players’ Association eloquently said on its Twitter account: “The soundtrack of car rides to practices, bus trips to tournaments and dressing rooms across Canada. Hockey was a part of you and you will always be a part of hockey. Thank you, Gord Downie.” The NHL tweeted: “Condolences to the family and friends of Canadian music icon Gord Downie, whose music and love for hockey will echo through arenas forever.”


The National Post has this story about Gord, the Hip and Hockey.

When Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip played Maple Leaf Gardens or the Air Canada Centre and got to Fifty Mission Cap, Bill Barilko’s No. 5 banner would be spotlighted in the rafters.

That song, underlining the Kingston, Ont., band’s strong ties to hockey as fans, players and storytellers, became a huge part of the Hip’s allure. It also restored Barilko, the 24-year-old defenceman who died months after scoring a Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal for the Leafs in 1951, to a prominent place in team history.

“Gord Downie’s lyrics and the song Fifty Mission Cap are the main reason Bill is still remembered in 2017,” said Kevin Shea, author of Without A Trace, detailing Barilko’s short, eventful life before a fishing-trip plane crash soon after his goal.

“Bill could have become an asterisk, a great Cup-winning goal, but one that was in 1951. He’s not an honoured member of the Hockey Hall Of Fame, just a good player. Yet his legend lives on because the Hip song became ubiquitous across Canada.”


Even minor hockey got into it. This is from Brad.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38413 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “The Hockey World Honours Gord Downie

  • Saw the Hip at the Gardens twice. A Hip show was always a collective and exhilarating experience – but when the spotlight shone on Barilko’s banner – it was explosive. I am grateful for those moments of joy.


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