Hockey Goal Horns and Goal Songs
Even if you were looking away from the action on the hockey ice for a couple minutes at a National Hockey League game, reaching down for your beverage or a fistful of popcorn, the blaring truck horn and pumping beat and chanting "Hey, Hey Hockeytown" tells you the beloved Detroit Red Wings (if that's your team) have scored on their home ice. (The version by the rocker Kid Rock is Detroit-charged—"The red lights flash, the horn is blaring" go the lyrics.) The hockey goal horn and accompanying goal song are unmistakably NHL. Allez-allez or go-go Montreal, you'd better believe it!
Every National Hockey League team has this going for them—a goal horn and goal song. But how did this unique and cool tradition begin?
Sounding the Horn
Hockey legend has it that in the 1970s, Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz loved the sound of the horn on his yacht and decided to install one in Chicago Stadium, where the Blackhawks (one of the NHL's Original Six teams) played. The horn soon became expected during games each time the Blackhawks scored. Later, when the team moved to Chi-Town's United Center, the horn followed—and by that time other teams had begun celebrating goals with horns of their own, namely in Minnesota and Buffalo in the 1980s.
Today, the horn is heard at home arenas for all 31 NHL teams, that is, whenever the home team tallies a goal. A red goal light flashes, too.
Who Makes the Horns?
A popular stadium horn model is made by Kahlenberg Industries in Wisconsin—they provided the first horn to Bill Wirtz back in the day so they have tradition on their side. Originally designed for marine vessels up to 250 feet long, the Kahlenberg Model T-3A Arena Air Horn combines three horns with three tones. That's a big boat, and the horn does a powerful job inside a stadium.
The big daddy from Kahlenberg is the Model KPH-130C Arena Stadium Electric Piston Horn, which uses an electric motor to drive a piston oscillating air in a column—making a big blast of sound. You can hear the horns at kahlenberg.com Sporting Venues.
You might find these same kinds of horns on an ocean liner or yacht. They're super loud and must be strategically placed in a stadium for maximum effect while not causing hearing injury to staff and fans when they sound.
Other stadium horns might be repurposed from locomotives, over-the-road trucks—even fog horns. But they're all loud and they signal fans to begin the shouting, screaming, cheering, dancing, fist pumping, and high-fiving that comes with a goal in hockey.
A horn blast is a horn blast is a horn blast, right?, whether it's in Montreal, Anaheim, Boston or New York. But to create individualized fan support and a sense of team identity and belonging, professional hockey teams also started to cue up personal anthems that play after the horn blast signaling a home-ice goal. These are the NHL goal songs.
The songs share a rousing, energizing vibe that's familiar to international soccer, where a packed stadium will suddenly burst out in one voice. At NHL hockey games, though, the goal song resonates each time the home team puts one in the net. Goal songs include "Hey, Hey, Hockeytown" in Detroit mentioned earlier, the heavy-metal song "Puck Off" by Pantera for the Dallas Stars, The Fratellis's "Chelsea Dagger" in Chicago for the Blackhawks, and many others. Each NHL team has a goal song.
Goal Horns and Songs Are Here to Stay
The goal horn and goal song are part of hockey tradition now, and really define a home-ice experience. Forget the football cannons and the ascending Big Apple for a home run at Citi Field for baseball's New York Mets—the hockey goal horn is the true signal of success and celebration.
Paired with Iron Maiden's "The Wicker Man," as for the Washington Capitals, or the Pennywise tune "Bro Hymn" in Anaheim and elsewhere, the goal horns let you know the celebration is on! Or as the Vancouver Canucks fans would tell you, it's not a celly (slang for celebration after a goal), but instead a goal brings a "Holiday" (their goal song by the band Green Day). Of course, Winnipeg Jets fans would shout (quoting their former goal song)—"Hell yes!"
Fan Identity Through
When the home team scores in an NHL hockey game, you can expect jubilation and unbridled excitement in the stands. Each team's front office helps along the celebration with a team goal song blaring over the public-address system, after the initial blast of a goal horn. It's a red-alert moment for the home crowd.
Some teams choose to rev up emotions a little more by making the song a team anthem and giving the fans a sense of identity. Some examples are "Le But (Allez Montréal)" for the Montréal Canadiens sung and rapped in Quebec French with lots of name dropping of famous players from previous Canadiens campaigns. More a ballad and not a rocking-on-the-edge-of-your-seat jam, "Le But" elicits loyalty among Les Habs faithful, especially when it reaches the chorus "Allez, allez Montréal."
Another example of whipping up team loyalty in the NHL is the Detroit Red Wings using native son Kid Rock's "Hey, Hey Hockeytown"—not a Grammy-winner, by any stretch of the imagination, but a rousing power-guitar jam for the Detroit crowd. The Dallas Stars heavy-metal goal song "Puck Off" by Pantera might be the best example of an individualized hockey fight song. The lyrics are solely shouted and chanted "Dallas/Stars." The New York Rangers incorporate their goal horn into their goal song "Slap Shot" by Ray Castoldi; it's pretty awesome and makes you want to stomp your feet and maybe smash things—like empty beer cups.
Other teams share standard power songs such as "Song 2" by Blur (Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes) or "The Whip" by Locksley (Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks). But the Florida Panthers get it right by using a song like "Out of Our Heads" by Dropkick Murphys, owning the song and giving their fans a chance to feel like a vital part of the singalong. You gotta love "Chelsea Dagger" by the Fratellis, a rockin' good choice so we gotta say—well done, Chicago Blackhawks.
But the Winnipeg Jets selecting "Hell Yeah" by Rev Theory as their personal goal song is a slapshot of genius—and it gives the fans a great song to scream along to when the Jets score a goal at home. Which is what you want every game in your home arena, right?