Neil Peart knows more about handling drumsticks than hockey sticks.
But when the Rush drummer was asked to record a new rock version of The Hockey Theme for TSN, he came to play - and gave 110%.
"I was inspired, of course, by the historic nature of that piece of music," the 57-year-old Peart told Sun Media yesterday from his California home. "And I had a licence to play a drum solo over it."
Peart's percussion-heavy rendition of the tune - which debuts on video tonight during the first intermission of the Philadelphia/Toronto game on TSN - only lasts a minute. Not surprisingly, it took the perfectionist percussionist significantly longer to create.
"The fact that it was just one minute was a perfect inspiration, really. I wanted to get everything I knew into that one minute. I spent several days a week working on it. I'd listen back to a part and say, 'There's two beats with no drums in it - I can get more drums in there!'" he laughs. "We wanted to pay respect to the original, melodically and even orchestrally, but at the same time, I was going to be rocking it up quite a bit."
In the video, Peart sports a hockey jersey and plays a custom drum kit emblazoned with the logos of all 30 NHL teams. The drum kit is being donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame - someplace Peart likely never would have ended up based on athletic ability.
"I was a twiggy little thing. I'd put on skates and my ankles would just fold over," he says. "But growing up in the ?60s in St. Catharines, Ont., my dad took me to Blackhawks games on Sunday night, and we had a backyard rink and played street hockey ... Hockey just imbued your life no matter what."
Now, ironically, when he tours with Rush, he spends almost as much time hanging around in hockey arenas as players. "I joke that we have the same office - just on different days."
And while he views the whole affair as "one of the great experiences of my life," he has no desire to recreate it live on the ice anytime soon. But he doesn't mind if everybody else does.
"Here's my dream: I want to see a whole arena full of hockey fans air-drumming to The Hockey Theme."