By Michael Fletcher
Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Del Barber grew up in southern Manitoba, so of course the Winnipeg Jets and hockey meant everything to him.
His fourth album, The Puck Drops Here, is a collection of songs inspired by his love of hockey and his dedication to the game. “I was up late and I was expecting to read about a hockey album that somebody has made along the way in Canada,” said Barber. “So I sent (True North Records) an email about a hockey album and they said let's go, let's make this thing”.
The album offers covers of songs that resonate with Canadian hockey fans, like a second national anthem. You’ll find remakes of songs like Stompin’ Tom Connors’ ‘The Hockey Song’ to the former 'Hockey Night in Canada' theme song. “Its like a hymn to us,” Barber said. “We recorded that song ('Hockey Night in Canada' theme) twice because we thought people would recognize it and ask themselves is that what I think it is?”
This album, which was made in collaboration with the appropriately named band the No Regretzkys, has three original songs laced throughout, and gets away from the country genre stretching into punk rock. “That’s the music I listened to when I was a serious hockey player through minor hockey, that was what we had on in the dressing room,” Barber said.
The game of hockey was everything to Barber growing up. He would come home everyday from school and shoot pucks off a piece of plexiglass onto a piece of plywood, or in the winter he would be on his backyard rink emulating players like Mario Lemieux and Jets legend Teemu Selanne playing the game he was so desperate to be a part of, he practised a lot more than he played.
Barber’s path to hockey was greatly delayed by his mother who was desperately trying to keep him out of youth hockey until he had improved his skating ability. “I wanted to play when I was eight-years-old, I was desperately trying to play and was mad at them every year I couldn’t play,” said Barber.
At 11-years-old Barber was finally able to play youth hockey and eventually made the jump to AA when he was 12, and made an immediate impact. “I was the top scoring player on the team in my first year, I think it was because of the desperation of wanting to play so hard and so bad,” said Barber. Every game he played he felt like the luckiest kid to ever play because he never had the chance before.
His father, a millwright, would bring home tickets for one Jets game every season but to a kid it was amazing. “I didn’t get to go to a lot of games as a kid, but we would get the factory tickets once a season,” Barber said. “I remember watching Teemu skate, it was like a bolt of lightning.”
Before the Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996, large numbers of Jets fans donated to the Save the Jets campaign, including a young Barber who begged his parents to let him drain his bank account, about $300, to donate it to his beloved Jets.
Through high school, hockey didn’t have the same effect on him, the romantic notions he once had about the game began to fade. He kept reading and experiencing a lot about the bureaucracy of the game and who got to play and it took him out of the game.
The goal of this album was to rekindle the love he had for the game as a child. Even as a 32-year-old, Barber says he can only play competitive with his buddies now. “I still think I’ll make the NHL… it's still that funny dream that a lot of us old washed up guys have,” said Barber. “Thirty-two isn’t old but it's too old to play anywhere else.”