During any given game more than 23,000 followers can engage in conversation with me via @CanucksGame; some enjoy talking about the power play, others want to know about scoring streaks and some want to debate fighting’s place in hockey.
I don’t recall the first time a tweet from @Raffi_RC came through, but I know it was regarding a scrap on the ice. We tweeted back and forth about fighting, “Raffi” giving his two cents, me returning mine.
Then a few weeks ago I was in the Canucks dressing room post-practice when a story opportunity arose. Jonathan Wall, director of hockey administration, asked me to meet him in the hallway after the Kevin Bieksa scrum I was about to partake in.
When I walked into the hall, the man talking to Jonathan was vaguely familiar, it was like he was once my best friend and yet I knew I’d never met him before.
It was Raffi – like Raffi, Raffi – as in children’s singer Raffi Cavoukian, known for hits like Baby Beluga, Down by the Bay and Bananaphone.
“Wow, Derek, it’s such a pleasure to meet you, I’m a big fan,” he actually said and I have witnesses because I know how fake it sounds but it’s actually true.
Why on earth would Raffi – like Raffi, Raffi – be telling me he’s a fan of mine, when I was and still am a huge fan of his?
Turns out Raffi is a Canucks fan and when he can’t watch the team play, he follows @CanucksGame on Twitter. Yes, the Raffi disputing fighting’s place in hockey was Raffi, Raffi – what are the odds. That’s like someone saying they’re friends with Wayne, and then it's Wayne Gretzky.
Jokes aside, Raffi isn’t kidding about keeping hockey clean and respectful. He recently released the toe-tapping tune On Hockey Days to promote all the good things about hockey, all the things that are forgotten more often than not.
“I live on Salt Spring Island, the only community of 10,000 people in Canada that doesn’t have a hockey rink,” explained Raffi, founder & chair of Centre for Child Honouring. “Just think of the devoted hockey moms and dads that have to take a ferry to Duncan or someplace for their kids to play hockey. There’s a lot of dedication and support being shown there and it really moves me and that’s what gave rise to the song.”
The nearly three-minute song, recorded in Calgary, took several weeks to write and another month was required to create the video. The project was a labour of love for Raffi and all those involved, and he believes the song has the potential to be his biggest yet.
“We’ve got one anthem for the game, which is Stompin’ Tom’s, and if there’s room to have another anthem by Stompin’ Raffi, I’m all for it,” he laughed.
Raffi has been in the music business for more than 35 years and if you’re like me, you grew up on his catchy tunes. If you’re like me, you also believed Raffi was a character like all the other children’s performers out there, and not a real person.
He’s real all right, as are his messages of spreading fun, fair play and respect, that have been heard worldwide. He knew one day he’d write a hockey song and the 63-year-old Armenian-Canadian is immensely proud of On Hockey Days.
Raffi’s love of our national past time began at age 10 when he came to Canada as an immigrant. He was drawn to the game instantly and his first English compositions were imitations of Foster Hewitt calling play-by-play of Hockey Night in Canada games, usually featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs, his favourite team.
When Raffi moved to the West Coast in 1990, a new team caught his attention and he’s been along for the ride with the Canucks ever since. Although he never played hockey as a child, he and his brother were table hockey kings, so much so they’d curve the sticks of the metallic hockey players so they could shoot top shelf.
Raffi was raised in hockey and he’s now produced a song to help raise the respect level for the game and the unsung heroes who make playing it possible.
“It’s a song born in my pure love of the game, it’s a song about hockey at the grassroots level, hockey families going to the rink and that’s what feeds the NHL. I’ve come up with a hockey song honouring the hockey moms and dads that make the game possible at all levels and again, I’m very proud of it.
“Someday I’m looking forward to is hearing it played at Rogers Arena, can you get on that Derek?”
I’ll try my best Raffi, it’s the least I can do for the man who enriched my childhood with the lyrics “Baby beluga in the deep blue sea, Swim so wild and you swim so free,” and is a superstar to my son today.