Ken Casey knows a little about entertaining. As the bass player for the wildly popular Irish-infused punk band Dropkick Murphys, Casey knows how to put on a good show.
He also knows a good show when he sees it. And for him, professional hockey is one of the greatest shows on earth.
A lifelong fan of his hometown Boston Bruins, the 33-year-old Casey has enjoyed the game since being introduced to the sport as a wee lad watching the Bobby Orr-era Bruins at his grandfather's knee.
"It's kind of brainwashed into me," Casey says of his love of hockey. "My first memories are of watching Hogan's Heroes and then the Bruins on WSBK (the Bruins' old television affiliate). My first words strung together were probably Bobby Orr and that's what I was for my first Halloween."
Since helping to form the Murphys in 1996, Casey has tried to spread his love of hockey to the band's fans, believing that the sport is too exciting to be ignored.
"I have always felt that out of the four sports, hockey gets the shaft around the country, and to me it's the real man's sport. It is just so fast-paced and exciting."
For Casey, and many others from his generation from the Boston area, Bruins' legend Terry O'Reilly embodied all that was great about the game. O'Reilly combined a suspect level of skill with the passion, grit and toughness to attain greatness. His performances inspired many to dream big dreams; Casey among them.
"Watching O'Reilly as a kid, he was just the type of player that made you feel you could out there and do it, too," says Casey. "That was just his way and I think people can identify with it. In a way, that's how we approach our music. We want people to come to a show and feel like they could step up on the stage and do it, too."
The Dropkick Murphys are a seven-piece band with Casey on bass, James Lynch on guitar, Matt Kelly on drums, Spicey McHaggis on bagpipes, Ryan Foltz on mandolin and tin whistle, Al Barr on vocals and Marc Orrell on guitar and accordion.
Often, on stage, Casey pays tribute to one of his first heroes -- sporting an O'Reilly hockey jersey as he strums away on his bass guitar, mayhem swirling around him on stage and in the crowd.
For Casey, it is more than a fashion statement. While he enjoys wearing the roomy sweater on stage, he also knows that his wardrobe carries sway with the band's fans.
"We do a lot of tie-ins to the Bruins in our show," explains Casey. "We have a young crowd and, in a way, we're trying to force-feed them hockey like it was force-fed to me."
In fact, the jersey has become one of Casey's trademarks, a look adopted by many of the bands fans. The group, on tour in support of their recently released live album -- Live on St. Patrick's Day from Boston -- was in Australia in October. While there, they constantly ran into Aussies sporting Bruins garb, specifically O'Reilly sweaters.
"They said they just wanted us to feel at home," Casey said with a laugh.
The ties-in between the band and the Bruins go even deeper than dress choices, however.
Casey is often there to hear the classic when it is belted out on the arena's speakers. He and the band's drummer own season tickets at center ice in the 300s. Those tickets were secured with the help of another Boston great, Chris Nilan, whose son is a huge fan of the band.
But, it is a safe bet that the straight-ahead Nilan also appreciates the band's in-your-face sonic attack, which is mixed with traditional Irish instruments like the bagpipes, mandolin and tin whistle.
For the Dropkick Murphys, the goal is to give it all on the stage and send the customers home happy. It is a lesson Casey earned at a young age watching the Bruins, a love affair that lives to this day.