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Team to roll out spirited music at opener next week

Do you like team fight songs?

There are plenty of them around college football. Like in Notre Dame. Or Michigan. Or Texas A&M where the fans sway in unison to their anthem.

How about in the NFL. The Detroit Lions belt out “Forward Down the Field” after each touchdown. In Minnesota it’s “Skol Vikings” and in Washington it’s “Hail to the Redskins” done by their very own marching band. And here in Buffalo, the “Shout” song, our community’s unofficial civic anthem, hits 30 years next year with no signs of slowing down.

But what about hockey? NHL teams haven’t really rallied around signature songs like at big time football programs or even some marquee European soccer teams. Think hard and even harder and perhaps that old chestnut, “Freeze Frame,” an 80s gem from the J. Geils Band, comes to mind as the theme of the AHL Rochester Red Wings.

But over the last two decades, two of the original six franchises have adopted their very own goal songs. In 1995, the New York Rangers hoisted their Stanley Cup banner, and rolled out a new goal song titled “Slapshot.” The song was written by longtime Madison Square Garden organist Frank Castoldi. It’s one of those audience participation songs that encourage fans to make more noise, to get into the game, and to sing along even if only to do the “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” part, shouted out four times in unison. The song has sort of become the gold standard around the NHL.

The Chicago Blackhawks got into the act, grabbing the intro to “Chelsea Dagger” by the Fratellis as their goal song, adopted just in time for their first Stanley Cup run this decade back in 2010.

A couple years ago, the Washington Capitals made their foray into themed fight songs, producing more of a music video titled “Rock The Red.” But not really a goal song.

So now the Buffalo Sabres are following suit. They are looking for a dramatic and upbeat goal song, something that the fans will embrace and raise the decibel level in the arena. And best of all, the fans are having a say in this.

“This is all about raising the level of fan involvement in our building just as we are opening a new chapter in the franchise’s history,” explained John Durbin, Sabres Director of Marketing. “So we decided, why not have the fans involved in the selection of their own song as well?”

So the front office called on Entercom Radio to assemble a proposed playlist. Also involved were front office team officials, and even the players and coaches got into the act to offer suggestions and favorites.

The result? Eight songs, presented in March Madness style brackets, and posted online at the Sabres website, complete with a Tyler Ennis highlight reel goal accompanied by each of the eight selections, and a platform for fans to cast their votes.

“It’s been phenomenal so far,” said Durbin. “Over 60,000 people tallied votes, and that goes to show you just how much passion there is for the team, and how people really care about their game night experiences and the emotions that spill out from a great moment or a great goal.”

The first round of voting was completed last Monday, and online voting is now underway for the second round and the four surviving entries.

They are “Howl” by the Gaslight Anthem, pitted against a rap song titled “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool.

In the other bracket, it’s “Yeah Yeah Yeah” by New Politics, which will be squaring off against “Swords of a Thousand Men” by Tenpole Tudor.

Interestingly, not making the cut was the ubiquitous ballpark song “The Boys Are Back” by the Dropkick Murphys, a melody with a decided New England feel and probably not well suited for the Western New York market.

Voting for round two concludes next Tuesday, and will lead right into the third and final round. Durbin indicated that the results of the vote will carry significant weight, but team input and choices from the players and coaches will also be factored in to the final decision. “We want to get this right. We want to land on something that we can use for a while, and that can become something identifying with the team,” said Durbin.

Former Sabres PR staffer and now author of Sabres blog Two In The Box Chris Ostrander often opines on the team’s game night presentation, and came out strongly for his favorite, “Howl.” “Howl is a song that I’m quite fond of,” writes Ostrander. “It has just about everything you’d think a goal song should have. There is a chanty part which promotes fan participation, it’s a song that isn’t used anywhere else in the league (I think) and there aren’t any awkward sections like in “Swords,” for example.”

And the winner is? We shall all find out next Thursday on opening night against the Ottawa Senators, when the Sabres score their first goal of the 2015-2016 season.

The choice from this corner? Definitely “Howl.” Cast your ballot online. Taro already did.

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