Longform

Rock 'n' Goal Music

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Iralson and Ruiz seem candid about their informal method of selecting music by what sounds good, but one wonders if there are some manipulative operations managers out there who've done scientific studies and are now playing "Crazy Train" because it induces laboratory mice to drink more Miller Genuine Draft.

The players are on the ice warming up to "Higher Ground" as redone by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In every instance, the funkier or more "urban" version of a hit is supplanted for the louder, cockier one, a clear lesson in knowing your demographic. The Suns can have the Stevie Wonder version, this is white rock country, where guitars win out over grooves every time and only a teeth-gnashing song by such black rock coalitionists as Living Colour or Jimi Hendrix will break the color sound barrier. Somehow anything less than a bashing, graceless 4/4 beat would make the action of the ice seem like Torvill and Dean.

After warming up, the players exit the ice and return minutes later in a cloak of darkness and groovy ice projections to the accompaniment of that Gary Hoey "Let's Go Coyotes" theme song. Unfortunately, team songs don't have words you can sing anymore like "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" or "Ballad of the Green Berets," so it's unlikely you'll be hearing it in a shower near you very soon.

Speaking of the unsingable, you can see why the first unaccompanied Coyote howls of the night find their way over Mary Gilbert's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." But Iralson has figured out what's generally been missing from the national anthem since it rolled off Francis Scott Key's pen. Rockets' red glare. Right on schedule, glaring red rockets are dispatched and the song merits standing up for again.

The first period is scoreless. Ruiz leads the first "Charge!" of the night, and the crowd gives back the obligatory howl, but little more. They need warming up, and 70 percent of the songs selected for tonight's music list are shuffled around or dropped entirely. "This Is a Call" is moved up and, in an ironic twist, "Master of Puppets" is dispatched when some crowd manipulation is needed for the noise meter. But these unwitting puppets can't get it past "8." Although some arenas just put up an animated video graphic that automatically goes up to 10 after a little struggle, Iralson is quick to interject that "Ours is legit. It's really nothing scientific. We have someone manually working it. So it's his call."

Keith Tkachuk collects a penalty against Penguin goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who's horizontal on the ice for about a minute. During this time, Ruiz plays nothing until it's determined he's milking it for camera time.

"You can tell he wasn't really hurt," she says. "They like to make it dramatic. We keep it quiet, kind of a respect thing if somebody's really hurt. But if somebody's whimpering, we have the 'ER Theme.' That's when we want to poke fun at them."

The first period ends in a hail of boos since what looked like a goal suddenly isn't.

"Smooth" by Santana is on the list for the break, but suddenly disappears.

"We recently decided not to play it for a while because it's kind of been spent," Ruiz says.

Beneath PA announcements, she plays "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Shimmer." Nothing too loud and rowdy the announcer must scream over. Besides, why waste the testosterone-churning material on anesthetized men watching the Zamboni go around?

What is it about this hypnowheel on ice? Grown men seem unable to pull their eyes away from it. It can't be the way it takes scuffs out of the ice or looks like a 12-pack of Bud Ice. It can't even be the women who win the contests to ride the thing so they'll be noticed during this time-out trance. While toddlers with their scaled-down hockey sticks pretend they're Rick Tocchet, their minders are fantasizing what it'd be like to drive this carbuncle. After asking a few patrons, the only thing we can come up with is that "Zamboni" is one of an elite group of words that for one reason or another people love saying. Like "Buttafuoco."

With both teams scoring in the second period, things move along at a quicker clip with fewer songs and more kill penalty music. Obstructions, interferences, tripping, slashing, nearly the whole row of bad boy standby tunes is exhausted. Ruiz herself has a few hairy moments where she might've given herself a penalty. Because of a miscalculation, one rousing prompt of "Charge!" had to cut it off at two "howls" instead of the customary three, and there was a moment of regret when she sighs, "I just tried something tonight that didn't work, 'Dizzy Up the Girl' by the Goo Goo Dolls. It just wasn't right for the situation. Sometimes we just don't call it right and you know it the second you press the button. That song just kind of sat there."

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic