TORONTO â€” It’s a song that came effortlessly to Ron Hawkins and quickly struck a chord with his audience.
“And it strikes a chord with me when I sing it,” said the veteran Toronto musician. “I still feel the same kind of hair-raising on the back of my neck that I felt when I wrote it.”
The musical accompaniment to a wonderfully poignant video montage by Tim Thompson, Hawkins’ “Peace and Quiet” also tugs at emotions before every Maple Leafs home game. The video, a warts-and-all homage to the NHL team, is shown on the big screen before the puck drops.
Hawkins’ song is a paean to his old Toronto neighbourhood of Kensington Market as well as an eloquent remembrance of departed friends. Thompson, however, has made it the perfect soundtrack to his 5 1/2-minute video history of the Leafs.
“The Maple Leafs Forever” touches on Stanley Cup-winning moments and hockey heartbreak, showcasing players gone too soon and those who will never be forgotten. And it captures the many moods of Leaf Nation, from wide-eyed kids to adults with bags on their heads.
Throughout, Thompson somehow links the visuals to Hawkins’ lyrics.
Hawkins sings “Is it funny how you seem just like a rumour now?” over visuals of past Leaf Cup wins, most in black and white.
The video montage captures perfectly the city’s love for a hockey franchise whose past greatness was followed by years of mediocrity. But the present is all about future promise and the video captures that too, ending with Hawkins’ line â€” “This time we’ll get it right.”
The montage, which starts with King Clancy promising the Maple Leafs “will be champions again,” is especially apropos today as the young Leafs turn heads in the playoffs in their 100th season.
Born in 1965, two years before Toronto’s last Stanley Cup win, Hawkins knows all about the Leafs’ ups and downs. A former goaltender and Mike Palmateer fan, he turned down a tryout as a teenager with the Marlboros junior club to pursue music.
He tells the story of how his parents, while dating, used to see the Leafs every weekend until his dad told his mother they just couldn’t afford to keep spending the $20 a game. Today that might buy you a cocktail at the Air Canada Centre.
But Hawkins says he is just a grateful passenger in Thompson’s video ride through the peaks and valleys of Toronto’s hockey heritage.
“And now luckily we’re in a peak,” he said.
Thompson’s montages won praise during his time at “Hockey Night in Canada” and he has continued to create videos for other teams. The Leafs’ one, however, was a labour of love that the club asked to use after seeing it.
It has been a staple â€” and fan favourite â€” since the start of the 2015-16 season.
Hawkins was not surprised at the reaction to the video, which seems to offer up something new with every viewing.
“He really has a poetic eye,” Hawkins said of Thompson.
“And Leafs fans are nothing if not romantic,” he added. “So the two things come together. But it’s just nice now that it’s not just romance, there’s actual gristle and sweat involved.”
Hawkins’ rich and varied musical career has included longtime band Lowest of the Low as well as solo work â€” his most recent album was titled “Spit Sputter and Sparkle” â€” and fronting his own band Ron Hawkins and the Do Good Assassins.
Hawkins says much of his artistic career has been writing about community, which is why Kensington Market found a way into his heart. He believes being part of something bigger than yourself, be it a band or hockey team, can help teach valuable lessons about “playing nicely with others.”
“It’s maintaining all of those personalities and trying to corral them for a common goal,” he said. “It’s a very difficult thing to do.”
Hawkins became friends with Thompson some time ago while he was making a music documentary. He has long admired Thompson’s work and essentially has given him carte blanche to use his music.
“I was very moved by it,” he said of the first time he saw the Leafs video.
“One thing I’m very appreciative about Tim when he uses my music and he cuts stuff to it is that he’s got the rhythm of a musician in a way. He really knows how to edit to music.”
Hawkins wasn’t the only one to connect to the video.
“The bass player (Derrick Brady) in my band, the Do Good Assassins, is a very sort of crusty dude sometimes and he said he teared up because he remembered watching the Leafs with his uncle when he was a kid,” he said. “I think it was very impactful with people.”
“Peace and Quiet” was original released on Hawkins’ 2007 album “Chemical Sounds.” A more laidback version, the one Thompson uses, was featured on 2015’s “Garden Songs.”
Hawkins, who still often closes out sets with “Peace and Quiet,” is currently working on a new Lowest of the Low album. Titled “Do the Right Now,” it is due out in September with the band touring in support.
“The Maple Leafs Forever” video by Tim Thompson can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8mIdB2Q-i8
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press