It's supposed to
Saturday afternoon, and the Red Wings are about to face off against
their arch-rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, and Joe Louis Arena is
packed; more than 20,000 fans have crowded in. There's been a
dazzling pregame show with rink-size projections of the Wings and the
appearance of a monstrous octopus three times the size of the one
that usually hangs from the Joe Louis Arena ceiling.
But the fans are
nervous crowd," observes a Red Wings staff member on the
in-house communication system.
Then, the Wings'
seventh man steps in.
He has no stick,
no skates, no pads. Just eight tape decks, a box ful of mini-discs
and a musical sense as attuned to the fans' moods as Dominik Hasek's
on-ice sense is to the Avalanche offensive line.
Tim Campbell -- T,
as he's known professionally -- grabs a mini-disc off the top of his
console, hurriedly spins a couple of knurled knobs and suddenly, the
arena is filled with the furious sound of "The Launch," a
hard-driving piece of techno by DJ Jean.
The video screen
above center ice screams "NOISE," and the crowd erupts.
They're on their feet, bellowing so loud they threaten to send the
Red Wings' Noise-o-meter ricocheting to the top of scale.
And just as
immediately, the game on the ice gets into high gear, the thumping
and pounding every bit as intense as the sounds blaring out of the
public address system.
not very aware of the music when we're on the ice," Red Wings
defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom admitted at practice last week. "But
the music gets the crowd going. And when the crowd is loud, it really
helps us. It's like an extra push, extra energy."
From MSU to Joe Louis
really intended to get into the DJ business.
An avid radio
listener as a youngster growing up in East Lansing, he seemed to
remember every musical selection he heard. Before long, he was
collecting records, then dragging a few to parties. Next thing he
knew, he was playing music at events catered by his late father, Jerry.
snowballed into a business," Campbell says.
Things took a big
turn in 1993, when Ron Mason, then the hockey coach at Michigan State
University, asked him to develop a music program for the Spartans'
home games. One of the Spartans' technicians also worked for the Red
Wings and before long, Campbell was interviewing for the Joe Louis gig.
While the Joe
definitely constituted the big time, it wasn't a job that would make
him rich. He started at $75 a game, hardly enough to cover the cost
of driving his 1993 Honda Civic -- red, of course -- the 170 miles
round-trip for each game.
"But this has
never been about the money," says the 42-year-old married father
of two, who meets a group of friends for 90 minutes of hockey every
Friday morning. "It's a quality-of-life issue, you know? I love
hockey. And I love music. This is the perfect job for me."
Scene and heard
Campbell may be
central to the mood of the arena. But his location makes him seem
like more of an afterthought. Tucked away in a drafty, oversized
supply closet at the rear of section 211B, it makes seeing the game a challenge.
much of the game on tiptoes, his head bobbing back and forth to see
the action beyond the heads of sports writers, TV monitors,
decorative bunting and the chunky corner of a scoreboard.
In fact, the only
view that's unobstructed is of nine Stanley Cup banners hanging from
the Joe's beamed ceiling.
make my view worse," Campbell says, "but it would be nice
to get another banner up there."
Play my song, DJ
to get a piece of the musical action. People are constantly peppering
him with requests. Some are semi-official, like the ones from sponsors.
decidedly less so.
A nattily dressed
stranger wanders in and forces a CD into Campbell's hands.
"Nothing Rocks Like Red Wings Hockey," says the cover. The
guy schmoozes Campbell as if they're old buddies. This CD won second
place in a music contest, the guy tells him, but it should have been first.
"Play it as
much as you want," the guy says, glad-handing Campbell one more
time. "And play it often."
More than music
Campbell describes his job as "organizing the fans'
enthusiasm." But that's far too dry for what he really does.
In reality, he's
the human equivalent of a mood-altering substance, giving the crowd a
goose when it's too quiet, trying to keep them pumped when they're
already up there and offering a clever commentary on the action.
Some of his
witticisms are obvious, like when the refs call a penalty against the
Avalanche. First comes TV's old "Dragnet" theme, quickly
followed by Ray Charles singing "Hit the Road Jack."
But those whose
musical knowledge hasn't evolved since the 70s may not have grasped
the significance of T's selection when Brendan Shanahan was called
for Interference just 1:35 into the game: "Open Up Your
Eyes," by Tonic.
It's ominous and a
little mournful. It's also wonderfully droll.
He's got dozens of
others stashed away and, since the Wings will go on to draw four more
penalties, we'll also get to hear "What's Up?" (4 Non
Blondes), "What's the Dillio" (M.E.S.T.),
"Misunderstanding" (Genesis) and "What's Going On"
"T is the
best in the business," says Ted Speers, senior director of
marketing and communications for the Wings. "He understands the
flow of the game, the highs and the lows and then he interprets them
important during the playoffs, says Speers.
"The crowd is
more tense now. It's his job to loosen them up."
He rocks the party
Just a minute into
the third period, Darren McCarty scores the first of what will be
three goals. The mood in the arena is jubilant. The goal is the
reason, of course. But Campbell enhances it with a quick-cutting
montage of hard-driving rock -- a musical parallel to McCarty's
pounding, playing style.
Then, for good
measure, he tosses in a quick snippet of "Mack the Knife."
again. Campbell pulls up "Twilight Zone," by 2 Unlimited.
It's wonderfully frantic.
usually low-scoring McCarty scores a third time. Now it's time for
"1, 2, 3," by Len Barry.
The crowd sings along.
deep. He puts on "Minnie the Moocher," a song recorded by
Cab Calloway more than 50 years ago. It seems chancy. But like any
good DJ, he knows his audience.
"Hi dee, hi
dee, hi dee hi," they chant with Calloway.
get any better than this, does it," Campbell asks whomever might
care to listen. "It's like one big party."
for the Ice