In a different universe, the NHL would have Beau Bokan and Nick Ghanbarian laced up in skates, staring each other in the eyes, waiting for the puck drop. Maybe Kyle Pavone would be on one of their sides, known worldwide as a lethal right winger.
It is an entertaining little reverie to imagine, but they all traded in their hockey sticks for microphones, keyboards and guitars. We thank them for that, because instead, Bokan and Pavone are slaying lyrics for blessthefall and We Came As Romans, respectively, while Ghanbarian roasts with his bass for Bayside.
But in the past, they all dreamed of NHL aspirations.
Bokan began when he was just coming into his teenage years out in Los Angeles. Thus, his unwavering fondness for Wayne Gretzky and the Kings.
“When I first started playing hockey, I had stickers of every team on my hockey helmet. I was collecting [them],” Bokan says. “You have to root for the hometown team.”
On the other coast, Ghanbarian was flying around in his Chicago Blackhawks jersey—forgive him, it was the first jersey Ghanbarian owned before his uncle instructed him to reclassify as a New York Rangers fan instead. He obliged.
“I actually had picked up a hockey stick before I even picked up an instrument,” Ghanbarian says. “Just a bunch of kids, when I was younger, started playing roller hockey in the street.”
In the middle of the country, Pavone played for his high school and travel team. “Michigan, it’s kind of like a thing where hockey is such a huge influence in kids growing up, pretty much everyone grows up playing hockey,” Pavone says. “I couldn’t get enough of it.”
The music scene has its NHL ambassadors, and they love to rile up opposing fans. This Wild Life guitarist Anthony Del Grosso gloriously bathed in New Jersey’s tears for the rhythmic “Crosby sucks” chants bestowed upon him for wearing a Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins shirt at a recent show. He is happy to mix it up with Philadelphia Flyers fanatics, too. In the end, Del Grosso just appreciates seeing the support for the sport. “For hockey, it is literally non-stop action the entire time,” Del Grosso says. “There’s hits, there’s fights, there is goal scoring, there are actually plays and strategy. It is the best live sport, of all time.”
Pavone returns the favor when We Came As Romans tours Pittsburgh, where he generates the expected Zdeno Chara ignited one-two punch of laughs and jeers. “I make sure to wear my ‘Cry Baby Crosby’ shirt every time I play there,” Pavone says.
Richard Rogers of Secrets was raised on the Detroit Red Wings. When he lived in northern California, he picked up an affinity for the San Jose Sharks, too.
“For some reason, they always seemed rad to me,” Rogers says. He credits the band’s tour manager, Cam Birchell, for taking Secrets’ hockey fandom over the top. Birchell’s buffet of f-bombs and Canadian flair while watching the NHL gravitated the rest of the band to the sport. Rogers thinks it is an easy sell. “Do you like people hitting each other?” Rogers says. “If you like figure skating and violence, you’ll love hockey.”
Del Grosso wears his Penguins’ pride on his sleeve–no really, check that Pittsburgh logo tattooed on his right arm sometime–but bandmate Kevin Jordan zonks out when Del Grosso chats sports. Inevitably, it always works itself out. This Wild Life finds their niche when they meet new bands. Del Grosso now has innocent feuds with Beartooth’s Taylor Lumley and Like Moths to Flames’ Chris Roetter after finding out they are Columbus Blue Jackets fans. “We have to find whoever likes comic books in the band so [Kevin] can talk to them, and who likes sports so I can talk to them,” Del Grosso says.
Del Grosso leaves little wiggle room in the argument for best NHL player. It is undoubtedly Crosby ( with 28 goals, 56 assists during the ’14 – ‘15 season), he says, and has been for about a half-decade.
There is some Will Ferrell in Old School-level debate among peers, however. Pavone would give the nod to Chicago’s elite first line, anchored by Patrick Kane (27 goals, 37 assists). Bokan believes the best players are the ones that make everyone else around them better. He offers up Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown as all-around underrated. He also marvels at Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk (869 career points). “You got someone like Datsyuk on the Red Wings, who is an absolute artist with the stick,” Bokan says. “The dude has handles.”
Give Ghanbarian someone like the Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin (77 points, 13 power play goals). As an aside to Mr. Seguin: Ghanbarian wants you to know he laments not getting a chance to pick you in his fantasy hockey draft. “I think him moving on from Boston was a good kick in the pants,” Ghanbarian says. “I’m really going to be paying attention to Dallas this year.”
So Del Grosso can hold everyone accountable for not picking Pittsburgh to win the Stanley Cup (or, more likely, we can hold him accountable since he will not budge off his prediction that the Penguins will go 82-0), here are their championship offerings:
Richard Rogers: Detroit over Chicago in seven games. Rogers is the only Red Wings fan in the band–the others like the Blackhawks.
Beau Bokan: Los Angeles over Chicago in seven. “That’s their style … They grind.”
Kyle Pavone: Detroit over Anaheim in six. “Detroit is going to do fucking awesome.”
Nick Ghanbarian: New York Rangers over Anaheim in seven. “Rangers need to squeeze one in while Henrik Lundqvist is still available.”
Anthony Del Grosso: Pittsburgh over Nashville. “And we sweep them, obviously.”
Do not be heartbroken if your team was not listed in the championship talk. Pavone likes Montreal’s make-up. Ghanbarian think Washington loaded up, and sees Buffalo as a potential fast riser after a disappointing season. Del Grosso hates to admit it, but says Columbus looks like a legitimate threat.
The Arizona Coyotes are still just god-awful, but hey, everyone else has a reason to watch. Your favorite musicians are on a mission to create new fans every day. “You do have baseball and you do have football, but this is the fastest sport. It’s constantly moving,” Pavone says. “Everyone I try to introduce to the game, they end up falling in love with it.”