The NHL playoffs are underway, and I can’t think of a better companion to fierce hockey action than a kickin’ soundtrack. Over the years, alternative, rock, and punk have gone hand-in-hand with brisk slapshots and bruising body checks. Whether it’s stellar NHL video game music, arena staples, or bar tunes to set the tone for jersey-clad fans, there’s a lot of quality stuff from which to choose.
I’m sure you’re excited to watch the second round head-to-head between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, as well as the fight between my Blues and the Predators (who impressively swept the top-seeded Blackhawks in round one). Here are 10 of my personal favorites to pump you up as the round continues and the Stanley Cup looms.
Autopilot Off – “Clockwork”
Featured in the NHL 2004 soundtrack, a.k.a. The best sports video game soundtrack of all-time, Autopilot Off’s “Clockwork” helped the band hit mainstream audiences in the early 2000s. The New York rockers combine pop-punk and alternative rock into an aggressive punch on their Make a Sound standout. In addition to its guitar-driven groove, the song’s chorus soared to magnificent heights — and if you played the game like I did, you may have found yourself singing along on a few occasions.
Deftones – “Minerva”
Also featured in NHL 2004, “Minerva” pressed Deftones’ acid trip of a rock sound into the sports realm. The band’s vintage atmosphere is on full display in the track, which was one of the first two singles off the 2003 record Deftones. With hints of metal and shoegaze in its dreamy makeup, the track’s fitting for the whirr of late night hockey. Chino Moreno’s distorted vocals bring this uplifting hard rock anthem to life, with the full band bringing time to a standstill in a playoff period that often seems to fly by.
Europe – “The Final Countdown”
No hockey playlist is complete without classic rock, and Europe’s “The Final Countdown” is the perfect pump-up jam. Apart from its signature keyboard part, the track’s echoing guitar solo and drum barrage provide quite the adrenaline boost. It only makes sense to feature a band who shares its namesake with a continent, especially one home to some of the best hockey countries in the world. But the song is sure to get the blood flowing for athletes and fans of all backgrounds, or else we wouldn’t still be blasting it in arenas 30 years after its release.
Every Time I Die – “El Dorado”
It was hard to choose between Every Time I Die’s “El Dorado” and From First to Last’s “Two As One” for a heavy song, but I went with the former because its whiskey-soaked aggression makes the most sense considering the sport. Both were previously featured in NHL video game soundtracks, with the Buffalo natives balancing hard rock and metalcore on From Parts Unknown’s 11th track. It’s a shame their hometown team has struggled so much in recent years, but Jack Eichel provides hope, and this dirty jam still hits as hard as a check into the boards.
Foxy Shazam – “Unstoppable”
I could’ve gone with any of several Queen songs on this list (specifically the two sports-themed ones), but Foxy Shazam channels the classic rockers’ intoxicating energy with their contemporary highlight “Unstoppable”. Like always, frontman Eric Sean Nally steals the show with his frantic, nasally vocals. But it’s the theme of not backing down, played out in front of a “go” chant and horn section, that screams sports. That’s why it got included in the NHL 11 soundtrack, and that’s what makes it a solid preparatory statement for a hockey battle.
Jimmy Eat World – “Sweetness”
Again, the theme of NHL video game songs continues, as Jimmy Eat World’s “Sweetness” made it on the franchise’s 2003 iteration. Whether the track acts as a metaphor for drug addiction is still a rumor at best, but it sure provides a succulent high before a big game. Out of all the tracks off the band’s 2001 breakthrough record, this one utilizes thick guitars the best, with piano taps and Jim Adkins’ vocal hums adding a nice melodic twist. Hockey requires relentlessness, and the Arizona natives parallel it with this pop-punk powerhouse.
Ramones – “Blitzkrieg Bop”
Regardless of how many hockey games you’ve been to, you’re probably familiar with the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”. But you’ve probably also heard it at your favorite team’s arena, as it’s the most-used song during stoppage of play in the entire league. It makes a lot of sense, especially with the line “hey, ho! / let’s go!” acting as a call to action for the hometown heroes. Punk’s early days in the 1970s were marked by breakneck speeds, and Ramones songs all ran around two minutes. “Blitzkrieg Bop” embodies the trend, and it feels right at home for hockey fans.
Thousand Foot Krutch – “Fire It Up”
Hard rock outfit Thousand Foot Krutch fired on all cylinders with 2009’s Welcome to the Masquerade, boasting six singles and promotional spots in several sports leagues. A handful of NHL teams have featured “Fire It Up” in their pre-game music — and for good reason. The track’s thunderous guitars and big chorus solidifying its presence at sporting events across the continent. Even better, Trevor McNevan and the gang hail from Ontario, Canada, and with the Great White North back in Cup contention after having no playoff teams last year, it’s an added bonus.
The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”
Its opening guitar line is familiar to all music fans, and that’s what makes “Seven Nation Army” the 2000s top rock track. The White Stripes play around with layers and heaviness, incorporating psychedelic guitar riffs in the primarily instrumental offering. Both memorable and spirited, it’s found a place as a hockey pump-up tune. The song’s immediately adrenaline-inducing — and not just for its intro, but also for the knowledge that there’s excitement to come. I’m talking about both the melodies crashing and the puck dropping.
Wolfmother – “Joker and the Thief”
Australian rock group Wolfmother took the mainstream by storm in the mid-2000s with their debut self-titled LP. The world hadn’t heard proto-metal rock and roll as juicy perhaps since Led Zeppelin, and that speaks to the trio’s palpable neo-psychedelia. “Woman” became the first big hit, with its deafening instrumentation pushing it all the way to the Madden NFL 07 soundtrack. But eventually, “Joker and the Thief” became the ultimate sports anthem. With its wicked opening guitar riff, it’s still used in hockey arenas a decade later and justifies a pump-up playlist presence.