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The Pipes & Drums and Regimental Band of the 48th Highlanders of Canada have played at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ home opener of the National Hockey League season for more than 60 years, and now the NHL appears to be starting new traditions with pipe bands in Canada, extending to Vancouver and Edmonton, Alberta.
Last week the 2009 World Pipe Band Champions, Simon Fraser University, played at the home opener of the Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Caledonia performed at the Edmonton Oilers’ first home game.
SFU Pipe-Major Terry Lee said his band, all wearing Canucks sweaters, was introduced as the six-time and current World Pipe Band Champions, and received a warm ovation from the crowd.
To prevent slipping on the ice, Lee said that some of the band members wore rubber overshoes on their brogues, and “some didn’t (like me) and nearly bought it.”
Although pipe bands have traditionally been closely linked with hockey in Canada, the elevated interest may be in part due to the popularity of the new Hockey Night in Canada theme tune, which features the piping of Sandy and Rob Campbell, former members of the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band.
The Edmonton game featured piping on the ice and in the stands, with the Campbell brothers performing along with a Celtic circus-like act overhead.
Celebrated hockey raconteur and former NHL coach, Don Cherry – a national hero in Canada – is a strong supporter of pipe bands, and reportedly was a tenor drummer with a band in Kingston, Ontario, for a time.
In Scotland, pipe bands regular feature at football and rugby matches, often performing at international events at Hampden Park in Glasgow.