Ten Commandments of Arena Music

This article has been a few years in the making. At all NHL games, music is a part of the atmosphere that makes watching a game fun. The NHL has the best, and being biased, Detroit's T. Campbell (known just as 'T') is number one in the league. 

When you get into the game, sometimes the music is just background noise, but with most DJ's, they have a song for every situation. Some fun examples of situational songs and sound bites from Red Wings games includes "Hit the Road Jack" for an away penalty, "I Can't Drive 55" when Niklas Kronwall scores, and the sound bite "Miller Time" when Drew Miller scores.

I myself am a guy who plays music at hockey games, albeit minor hockey in Tecumseh. I have my own music that is unique and when played at the right time can get some chuckles out of the parents at the game.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some truly terrible people running the music at hockey games. One of these includes the guy who was at the WFCU Center at the Under-17 Championship. He broke every rule that I made for myself when it comes to playing music at a game. What are these rules? Why, they're the Ten Commandments of Arena Music!

1. Thou shalt not play the same song twice

The only exception to this rule is if a team uses an organ for a chant (Let's Go Wings or Let's Go Hawks, for instance). But if you play 'Ice, Ice Baby' three times during the game, you're either an idiot or a bigger idiot for not noticing you played the song already. Fans aren't stupid, they know it's been played , and when you're thinking about what the heck the music guy is thinking, they aren't watching the game.

2. Thou shalt not play the same song twice in a row

There's always the DJ that loves that one song, but the puck drops before the good part comes. Well, the next whistle he lets it play again. Mortal music sin. If you know that's the part you want, then queue it up! They have all the technology like the laptops and fancy volume equipment, but I have an old iPod Nano and a free software trial version of Goldwave, and I can do the exact same thing. Don't play the same song twice in a row.

3. Thou shalt not play multiple goal horns

It's bad enough when they have a different horn for each team, but it's even worse when they have different ones for the home team. For my games, I stick with one: the current Los Angeles Kings train horn. It's loud and shakes the building, and it's only two horn blasts. When someone uses a crap version of the Dallas Stars horn, it's like 16 seconds of just noise that gets annoying, and ultimately you have to cut it short because the puck drops. As a side note; use your fancy equipment to make your own songs after the goal. Any more of this Blackhawks nonsense of Chelsea Dagger...

4. Thou shalt play organ music during the game

This is a must. If you don't play organs, you don't know hockey. Pretty simple. The organ is the oldest thing about hockey music and that's how music at games started, so give tradition a nod and play one every once in a while. The parents might actually clap along if it's a novice game. In the big leagues the fans will for sure.

5. Thou shalt play all different genres during the game

Don't play all techno. I know that's the going thing these days, and I like techno, but there ARE other genres of music. Even if you personally don't like them, fans do. So play some country, some hip hop, some rock, some punk, all of it. I found a way to even use an opera song (Oh Fortuna by Mozart). It adds to the experience of the game when you go from a classic rock song with a lot of guitar to a hip hop song with bass.

6. Thou shalt know the time to play certain songs

At the end of the game, the home team is down by one. Put on 'The Launch by DJ Jean' and the players' will get that adrenaline rush. You have to judge the mood of the crowd. Do they need a kick in the butt? Play a pump up song. Is it just a random whistle? Play some rock or country or an organ. Your job is to amplify the game's tense moments with music.

7. Thou shalt not waver on volume

So many times I have not been able to hear a song, and then the next one my ears are bleeding. It's called volume control, people (Goldwave: my crappy trial version of music editing; it does volume control for you. It's not hard). This goes for during a song too. Don't play around so much that people can audibly hear the change in volume. If you need to adjust, do it slowly. The best thing about volume is that you can start low and go a little higher. When the puck is dropped, fade out. Simple.

8. Thou shalt be original/Thou shall not copy other people's material

When I began, I copied a lot of Campbell's material from Red Wings games. Now, I try and make up my own stuff. I have my own goal songs (fans love "I like It" by Enrique Iglesias. Do I like the song? It's not my favorite, but if they like it, I'll play it), and my own penalty songs and sound bites. The best one has to be when a player gets a questionable penalty and the coach doesn't like it. I fire up a sound bite form Bugs Bunny where Foghorn Leghorn yells, "Now that's a joke, son!"

9. Thou shalt have an amazing intro and warmup routine

The intro to a game builds tension and creates the atmosphere. I always like playing something slow at first with some buildup, like the song from the Lord of the Rings trailer (Requiem for a Dream) or 300 Violin Orchestra - Jorge Quintero. Then put on some hard rock like Big Slice by Jonas and the Massive Attraction or Last Man Standing by Pop Evil. When the payers come out, let it play out, and then get something the players want to hear. This is the only song that should be for them. The rest is for the fans. So last year I had to play Disco Pogo by Die Atzen for my brother's team. Not the best song, but it got them going, so it worked out.

10. Every game should be different!

This is the biggest mistake many people make. When the same songs are played every game, fans know it's coming. That's why every game I get some new songs to play. The bottom line is that every game is different, so should the music.

So there you have it, the ten commandments of arena music. The guy in Windsor broke every single one of them. Have I broken some? For sure, but that's how you notice the problem and proceed to fix it. One last point: a regular DJ that doesn't know hockey will always fail. It is inevitable. You need to have played in a game and felt the rush when you skate out to music or hear the horn when you score. Music is a big part of hockey. Don't screw it up!

Kyle Busch


George Prax's picture

Great article. I always found the music at hockey games to be very important, it helps a lot with the crowd which can be important. My favorite is when they find something for specific players.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

The best one I think was Shanahan's Irish Jig. That always made me chuckle. If you just turn on the radio and listen to songs, there's a cut for anything that happens in a game. That's how I get all my clips. The one that Detroit uses that I think is hilarious is coming back from a commercial break and they put on a pump up song, and they have Brick Tamlin yelling "LOUD NOISES"