I suspect even Neil Young would have been touched by the sight of Bob Probert singing Young's tune, Needle and the Damage done, as the Rockers and the ex-NHLers pack a bus that takes us all back to Saskatoon from Prince Albert where we have just got off the ice from playing the fourth annual Juno Cup. Yes the NHLers kicked our ass but the game was a blast and we raised tons of money to keep instruments in Canadian public schools.
Someone's loaded pizza and beer onto the bus jammed with musicians and onetime NHL stars and Barney Bentall surprises us by producing a guitar he mooched from a Gibson rep who had been patrolling the lobby of Saskatoon's Bess borough Hotel.
Probert is the first to play and after muddling through a few Zeppelin tunes, Luke Doucette helps the one time tough guy who launches into Young's ode to the tragedy of excess. That Probert has publicly battled addiction for decades just makes the song more real and I'm learning that big Bob is just another perplexing pugilist. He reminds me of former Leaf punch out artist Ken Baumgartner who I got to know during his 90s run with the Leafs. They both are large, lovable softies who happen to have been paid millions to smash people in the face.
The guitar is passed over heads for all the musicians to play during this two hour ride. Sam Roberts gives us Me and Julio and when Sloan's Chris Murphy does more Young, Shuffle Demon Richard Underhill whips out his sax and joins in. Eagle and Hawk's Jay Bodner, Jim Cuddy, George Canyon, ex-New York Islander Brad Dalgarno, Doucette, and Quebec pop rock star Kevin Parent all make the bus ride motor along as they unleash sing-along staples by the bucket load. You just know people are going to bark out the chorus to Mighty Quinn, right? Even Canadian Idol dickhead Zack Werner sings a tune and nobody tells him he sucks and boots him off the bus.
The jam continues back in Saskatoon in the NOW Suite with Parent, Cuddy, Bentall, Doucette joined by the Tragically Hip's Paul Langois and Johnny Fay on a killer version of Paul McCartney's Every Night.
It's nice that in the midst of all the music merchandizing that surrounds the Junos to see the players happy to do their day job off hours, still digging the music despite the fact it pays their bills.
As two time Stanley Cup winner Mark Napier takes in the tunes with his wife Jan he says "I guess it's just like us playing a pickup game of shinny with ex pros and our pals. It's what we did for money but it's still what we love to do. Must be the same for the musicians and their songs."