Sorry if this makes your ears bleed.
A hockey goal is so unlike scoring in any other major American sport. It doesn’t happen nearly as frequently as in basketball, or with the gradual march down the field in football. Even a home run takes five or six seconds to leave the park. Sometimes a puck can end up in the back of the net thanks to an amazing display of skill, or sometimes it’s just dumb (skillful) luck.
Perhaps because of that, NHL fans have some of the best celebrations in sports. From the red lamp to the blaring horn to the singalong songs, they never change and yet they never get old.
Everyone knows that each team has its own goal song (“Chelsea Dagger” for the Blackhawks and “Let Me Clear My Throat” for the Sabres, for example), but the fact that each horn is unique definitely flies under the radar.
The story behind how goal horns became the norm and where they come from is really interesting, but we’re just here to pass judgement.
30. Edmonton Oilers
This one is just upsetting. It’s like the sound effect in a horror movie when the bad guy rips open the door. It’s a harbinger of impending doom, not a cue to rejoice. (What’s cool, though, is this video showing how the Edmonton horn works.)
29. Washington Capitals
What’s the one sound that sends every person into a momentary panic? Police sirens.
28. Vancouver Canucks
Layered horns are usually some of the best (see the bottom of this list) but this one doesn’t work at all. The two tones don’t go together in the slightest. (Here’s another video showing how the horn works.)
27. New Jersey Devils
Did the horn come down with the flu? It sounds like it’s just getting over a case of laryngitis.
26. Minnesota Wild
It just sort of drones on. It’s boring and uninspired.
25. Los Angeles Kings
While other high-pitched horns wail, this one is brash. It sort of works, but it’s still rough on your ears.
24. Colorado Avalanche
There are basically two types of horns in the NHL—bassy foghorns and shrill sirens. This one falls in a weird middle ground that sounds more like a truck.
23. Philadelphia Flyers
A single blast on a monotone horn. This is just sort of flat and uninspired.
22. Detroit Red Wings
This is another one that sounds like a truck, but that actually makes sense given Detroit’s auto legacy.
21. Arizona Coyotes
It’s piercing, but not entirely unpleasant.
20. Ottawa Senators
The high-pitched horn and the quick tempo can be a little jarring, but give the Sens credit for being unique.
19. Florida Panthers
I have no strong feelings about this one. It absolutely deserves to be in the middle of the pack.
18. Montreal Canadiens
I was prepared to rank this much lower but then I read Jake Gittler at The Hockey Writers explain that it sounds much better, much crisper, in person. I’ll buy that, because fans in Montreal definitely wouldn’t stand for a sub-par horn.
17. New York Rangers
I like when there’s a little pause between blasts on the horn but the mistake the Rangers made is not decrescendoing into the rests.
16. Toronto Maple Leafs
This one sounds a little bit like the noise the alien tripods make in War of the Worlds, which makes sense since the Leafs have been like a disaster movie until very recently.
15. St. Louis Blues
It’s clear and crisp—a perfectly average horn.
14. Winnipeg Jets
Ignore everything I said before about sirens—the air raid effect is perfect for a team named the Jets.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
Just your standard fog horn. Nothing fancy, but pretty solid.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins
Independent of any context, this is a lovely horn. It’s mellow, in a major key and has a gentle warble. But then the song comes in and changes the whole mood—not a great combination.
11. New York Islanders
To a certain extent, the Islanders were the team that inspired this post. When they moved to Brooklyn in 2015, the Isles’ ditched the old Nassau Coliseum horn for one that was supposed to mimic a Long Island Rail Road train. Everyone hated it. They went back to the original one after four days, which you hear above. It’s fine.
10. Dallas Stars
Bonus points here for layering two tones like a minor chord. Points docked for not letting it breathe more.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets
It’s the false start here that makes this one good.
8. San Jose Sharks
Yes, it’s yet another bellowing fog horn, but the Sharks get extra credit for looping it back in over the music.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
Back in 2014 we picked the Hawks as the top goal song in the NHL. The horn isn’t so bad either. It’s blaring, it fades in and out nicely, and it leads in to that song we all love.
6. Nashville Predators
Tonally speaking, this is a great horn. It’s full-throated and has a little bit of warble. My only objection is that it’s just a single blast.
5. Anaheim Ducks
I imagine with a horn that low you can actually feel your eardrums vibrating. But it’s still fairly generic, with no distinguishing characteristics beyond being exceptionally low—there are no crescendos, stops and starts or reverberations. Still, the Ducks get extra credit for mercifully eliminating the siren that accompanied the horn last season.
4. Calgary Flames
Here’s a horn that manages to combine complex tonality with sheer volume.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
This is outstanding. It’s throaty and they get off a few long blasts at a decent rhythm. The Canes only get docked a touch because the song following the horn is quite a few octaves higher.
2. Buffalo Sabres
I love this one—it’s layered and raspy with a sort of vibrato that gives it a sense of urgency.
1. Boston Bruins
That’s got some serious heft. It’s a beefy horn.