(This article was originally published on Mar. 28, 2021)
Fellow BCHLNetwork writer Eric Clarke recently wrote an article titled “Life as a BCHL Mascot.” In previous articles, it’s been established that I have worked a BCHL gameday disc jockey for a number of seasons.
Now it is time to look at what a typical day looks like for a DJ in the BCHL, at least from my perspective – as it may vary from team to team and DJ to DJ.
Myth vs. reality
For many positions relating to a game night, there isn’t a ton of prep work that goes into certain jobs. You arrive at the arena, wait for the game to start, do your job, and leave. The reality of a DJ is much different.
Personally, game night usually involves at least a full evening of preparation. I am in contact with the game day coordinator to finalize all details I need to know about what is happening during a particular game.
What is happening during media timeouts? Is there a mini-game? A Frisbee toss in the second intermission? Anything special happening pregame? What’s the theme?
All of these are questions I need to know the answers to before I start to prepare specific music for each game. Many DJs fly by the seat of their pants so to speak, but for me every night is a blank master canvas, awaiting precise, measured brush strokes to produce masterpieces.
I program the majority of music in advance. The only music that isn’t pre-programmed is the music played at stoppages during the game. I leave these choices open as most of the time they are dictated by what is happening in the game and who is in the stands.
I am very proud of the fact that my music collection is diverse and large enough that my playlists outside of event-specific music like goal songs, power play songs, etc. that no two consecutive games will ever have the same music. This wasn’t always the case, especially prior to the addition of a laptop to my regular gear.
Pre-game and warmup
I will admit it here, I am a creature of habit. I arrive at the arena around 90 minutes before puck-drop. Once I have access to the media booth, I spend about 10 minutes setting up and connecting my laptop and mixer to the house sound system. A quick walk around the arena gives me an opportunity to make sure everything sounds okay before the doors open. Once sound check is complete, I eat dinner.
Typically I hit play for the evening about 10 minutes before the doors open. This gives me a chance to walk around the arena at least one more time before fans and their ambient noise arrive in the building. There is about 30 minutes of music played before the first major event of the evening – the pre-game warmup.
Warmup music is always selected by the players and played louder than normal. Volume moderation is essential when it comes to warmup. I always start warmup loud and start trimming volume by the halfway point of the first track, once all the players from both teams have hit the ice.
As soon as the horn signals the end of the 15 minute warmup, volume is relaxed further and music is changed to something theme-appropriate. I leave the booth after warmup to stretch and observe the crowd coming in.
Knowing the ages and diversity of people in the stands ahead of time helps me curtail my music choices later in the game. If the crowd is younger, more top 40 music will be played. If it is an older crowd, emphasis will be placed on music for them.
Regardless of the people in the stands, I try to play a mix of all genres and styles. Due to the family nature of BCHL fans, all music played is clean and free of explicit language, vulgar lyrics, and racial slurs.
Player introduction and opening faceoff
From about the seven minute mark of the scoreboard onwards, the music played at Express games gets a bit of a decibel boost. Long time Express broadcaster Eddie Gregory and I usually collaborate at the start of the season and decide what song we are going to use as the bed for our highlight package.
Once we have a song, he inserts highlights from his broadcast into the bed and thus our pre-introduction song is produced. This piece generally changes two to three times a season as the players change and the sample size of audio highlights increases.
Once the pre-introduction is finished playing, generally, just inside of the three minute mark, it is time to crank up the player introduction music, which is often DJ selected, and wait for the Express to hit the ice.
Volume is dialed back while the public address announcer runs through the starting lineup for the evening and fades out as the anthem singer or special guests for the opening faceoff are introduced. Proper game day etiquette dictates that the anthem is always last.
Once the anthem singer is done singing, the volume gets punched up again with a high energy music selection that gets the teams and fans ready for the opening faceoff.
Reading the game
Once the game starts, I generally have a good read on the audience in attendance. As a rule, I try to let the flow of play dictate what music or styles I play. Games where the home team is ahead, or that are tight on the scoreboard, generally foster a more responsive audience, upbeat music and all around happiness for the home team and its fans. This applies to staff, including the DJ as well.
A happy crowd is a satisfied crowd. Games that are blowouts, for either the home team or the road team, usually dampen the types of music I play. Forever the good sport, there is no need to prompt the crowd to “make some noise’ when the score is lopsided. When the score is piling up, I like to experiment with different music selections to see their effect.
Fellow Express DJ Rod Macbeth notes that he usually works one or two songs in advance. “I let the flow of the game and the crowd dictate (it),” explains the former radio personality and current DJ/public address announcer for the club.
Like any DJ worth their salt, Macbeth rarely plays the same songs in the same order from game-to-game. Macbeth surmises some crowds are harder than others and variance exists between different nights.
Macbeth vouches that sometimes choosing music is a bit of a crapshoot. “Overall, I use the ‘bob factor’ on songs. If the crowd’s heads are bobbing along to the beat of the music, then you know you’ve got a decent song.”
Media timeouts and intermission music
Selecting music to play during the media timeout each period is dictated by what is happening in the building. Many BCHL teams utilize an in-game host who runs a quick fan-related contest during each media break. The Express have had dance contests like “Shiver for a Blizzard”, trivia contests, and the always popular “Name that Tune.”
Mid-week games often have nothing but music playing during the media timeouts in all three periods. Tunes played coming out of the timeout are on the loud side to fire up the home team and crowd, much like the “hit the ice” music at the start of each period.
Intermission music again is determined by what is happening on the ice. The Express traditionally have a mini-game in the first intermission and a Frisbee toss in the second intermission.
Generally, I like to play current top 40 music for the mini-game or classics like “ABC” by The Jackson 5 and Dolores Claman’s “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song. I have used “Fire” by Scooter as the Frisbee toss music for many years, although that can change depending on the DJ. There are even Zamboni-related songs to play as well during the ice clean.
Games that have specific music themes are by far my favourite games to DJ. Wayback Wednesdays were born as a result of a mostly adult fan base in the arena in games midweek. Far Back Fridays and Sizzling Saturdays are also common retro-themed nights.
Other themes such as tributes to recently passed music artists, classic rock night, country night, and 80s night are often fun to prepare for and execute.
Music played after the game is very dependent on the result of the game. Upbeat songs like the “Happy Days Theme” or “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang immediately come to mind as go-to songs for Express victories.
More subdued tracks like “Closing Time” by Leonard Cohen, or “We’re Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time)” by Trooper are among selections played following an Express loss.
Secondary music sometimes ties in the opponent for the next home game or sometimes not, again all this relies on the DJ’s discretion.
When fans are able to return to BCHL arenas in the fall, be aware, the gameday DJ is watching you. Stop in and say hi to them, DJs always appreciate feedback and an opportunity to meet fans of their team and the league.