A Vancouver Canucks hockey game is much more than just guys with sticks in skates on ice, it’s a perfectly orchestrated masterpiece that goes off, typically, without a hitch.
Part of the Canucks one-of-a-kind experience is a musical overload for the ears, aka the Dee Jay stylings of one DJ Dave, aka Dave Levinson.
By day he’s an artist manager with Macklam Feldman Mgmt caring for the likes of Elvis Costello, Diana Krall and Norah Jones, by night he’s perched high above the ice at GM Place as part of the game presentation staff – a headset wearing crew of snap decision makers.
DJ Dave has been making the speakers at The Garage ooze goodness for 10 years and in that time he’s seen, heard and played it all. Here are six things you should know about deejaying for the Canucks, straight from our very own five-star gold Rock Band expert, the man who deejayed a Monday Night Football game in Seattle and brought David Lee Roth’s woo to Vancouver.
Contrary to what Aerosmith said, you don’t just push play.
DREAM COME TRUE
“It has been something that I had wanted to do since I was a kid. When I was about 17 or 18, I used to write letters in, you can ask Karen Christiansen (director of charitable, corporate and on-ice events). I wanted to do this because I’d come to games and something would happen on the ice and some song would come on that wouldn’t make any sense. I kept writing letters and finally spoke to Karen and she let me know that the Canucks didn’t use a DJ. That was disheartening.
"Long story short, I started volunteering as DJ for the Burnaby Bulldogs of the BCHL and in my third season the Canucks played an exhibition game there. I did the game and afterwards I gave Karen another letter. She was surprised to find out that I was the guy writing all the letters, so she brought me in for a trial game. They were considering two of us and I got the first game when the Canucks played the Buffalo Sabres. At the end of the game, which seemed to last four minutes, she handed me a parking pass and said see you on Monday.”
PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC
“In general we try to play a good cross section of music, although we don’t play a lot of country music here because of our demographic. Over the last few years we’ve gotten hip-hoppier, but generally it’s a good cross-section of everything, stuff that the older guys can relate to and that the kids can have fun with.
“There have been some good lucks songs in the past that we’ve relied on, one of which is "On The Dark Side", from Eddie and Cruisers. Another was "Wango Tango", by Ted Nugent, and these were tunes that when we really needed a goal we’d play and more often than not, believe it or not, it worked. We would score. We haven’t used them this season, not yet, but last year we did to some degree.”
HEY DJ, YOU TAKE REQUESTS?
”Players have 100 per cent input in the warm-up music. I’ll come to practice sometimes and listen to what they’re playing, or someone from media relations will text me and let me know what they want to hear in warm-up.
”I know Bieksa a little bit so I usually ask him what he’s listening to, same with Willie, he’ll give some input, and Kesler as well. Media relations always has its ears open on the road during warm-up and if they hear a good song they jot it down. I’ve given the players a few hard drives full of music too so they have everything they need to pick good tunes.
“This year the warm-up is a lot of hip-hop, some Young Jeezy, a lot of Jay-Z, Pitbull, they like the urban hip-hop for warm-up and it’s actually pretty cool.”
(editor's note: for those unfamiliar with the Apollo stump, it's a famous charm musicians rub for good luck. In the above picture Dave is snagging a little luck for the Canucks).
WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME
“Using U2, for me, became a Vancouver original. It was copied around the sporting world and as far as I know we were the first to use it. There was some concern that it was the old days, West Coast Express time, and it would remind people of Bertuzzi and Naslund and all that stuff, but fans of the team know it’s a Vancouver thing. And quite honestly we’ve tried a lot of other things and they never quite reached the mark.
“With that song, you can ask most people that when they hear that, the hairs stand up because it reminds them of waving towels and the excitement in GM Place for Canucks hockey. I have never had anything work as well. In the old days it was Thunderstruck in the Coliseum, and the Lightning still use that today, but it’s about that recognizable moment and U2 is ours, there’s no question about it.”
OLYMPICS VS. PLAYOFFS
”For the Olympics, all the deejays at all the venues are submitting songs, the stuff each person relies on in crunch time and so on, and then they are compiling the master list that we can not stray from. I did that for the World Juniors in ‘06 too.
"As far as customizing music for each country, there’s a couple of bands from Sweden, for example, The Soundtrack of Our Lives is one and ABBA of course; we’re no strangers to the Swedish stuff around here. But once you get beyond Sweden, Russia and maybe Germany, there’s not a lot of tunes to use. Teams will request songs for warm-up so we’ll see what happens.
”The Olympics has always been a goal for sure and it’ll be huge, but definitely a different kind of mania than the Cup Finals, which is what I’ve been doing this for, what we’ve all been doing this for, to not only get a ring, but to just do the finals. I can’t even imagine that, nothing freaks me out more than playoffs. It’s a life consuming stressful time. The Cup is why we’re here.”
THESE ARE THE MOMENTS
”There have been some great moments here over the years. One was during the playoffs in 2003-04 against Calgary after Morrison scored in OT in Game 6 to force a Game 7 here, and it was near the end of regulation and Cooke scored with about 6 seconds to go, people always remember Jovo in the penalty box jumping up and down, and at the very end they were clearing the ice for overtime and we were about to run some videos and I stopped the production and threw on “Alive” by Pearl Jam. The whole arena was singing and dancing. It was awesome. We ended up losing in overtime, but that was still a great moment.
”Another one was in 2000-01, we needed to make the playoffs and it came down to the final games of the year, we had to win to get in, and it went to overtime and Harold Druken scored to beat the Kings and get us into the playoffs. Right before the goal song I threw on a halleluiah chorus and it was huge. All you could hear was halleluiah! halleluiah! That was quite awesome.”