Few rock bands have been featured in both Sports Illustrated and Billboard. Few have played both punk-rock clubs and Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. Few have appealed to fans young and old. But the quirky 100% hockey-rock Zambonis have somehow prevailed—impressing music snobs, sports freaks and critics simultaneously.
The Zambonis formed in 1991 when defenseman/guitarist/singer Dave Schneider envisioned a group that played nothing but songs about hockey. And he wasn’t joking. What started as a fun “little thing” is now the most popular sports-rock band in North America. Explaining his band’s unique style, Dave says, “We’re the only band in the world whose two biggest influences are The Beatles and Wayne Gretzky!”
For the “minor-league years,” The Zambonis stuck close to their Bridgeport, Connecticut home. But in 1996, The Zambonis’ first full-length CD, 100% Hockey...and other stuff, changed everything. The 15-song disc cracked the Top 25 on both the CMJ and Gavin charts, spent 13 weeks on the CMJ Top 200 and worked its way onto NHL, NCAA and minor league hockey arena playlists nationwide.
Commenting on the disc, The Los Angeles Times wrote, “Slapstick meets slapshots…For the true hockey fan, this is a must. For the casual fan, it’s still one big smile.” While Billboard added “They have a sense of humor about themselves…A timely and surprisingly appealing release.” Time Out New York chimed in, anointing the band “The Pearl Jam of hockey rock.”
It wasn’t long before the band performed at Madison Square Garden. Even though the event was a monster truck rally, it still counts, right?
Later in ’96, the band released the single “Avalanche!” which became a good-luck anthem for the Colorado Avalanche’s 1996 Stanley Cup playoff run. The song, that later appeared on the band’s 1997 EP, Playoff Fever, received incessant Denver radio airplay and led to a pre-playoff game command performance at Denver’s McNichols Arena (now known as the Pepsi Center).
In January 1999, The Zambonis were invited to play at the NHL Breakout in Tampa, Florida for the Rollerblade Hockey World Championships. Ice…asphalt…it’s all good when it’s all hockey.
In February 1999, The Zambonis cracked the small screen with the premiere Nickelodeon airing of the “Hockey Monkey” video. Years later, the video is still regularly shown in re-airings of Nickelodeon’s Kablam! program.
It wasn’t long before The Zambonis’ “focused” approach lured such mainstream publicity outlets as CNBC, MTV, ESPN2, FOX Sports, WNBC-TV’s “Live at Five”, plus such syndicated puck programs as Hockey Week and Cool Shots, as well as New York magazine, Hockey Digest, New York Post and dozens more.
In October 1999, the band’s second full-length CD, More Songs About Hockey...and buildings and food took the ice and brought the band even more friends and fans, plus a feature story in The New York Times and a “Random Notes” photo in Rolling Stone. With 17 tracks of head-spinningly good pop-rock (that also happen to be about hockey), More Songs earned more raves. Said the Fairfield Weekly at the time, “These aren’t just songs about hockey—they’re perfectly written, perfectly tuneful songs about hockey.”
In November 1999, The Zambonis won Maxim Magazine’s "Best Band You Never Heard Of" Award, topping the Go-Betweens and At The Drive-In.
In December 1999, the band made a triumphant second appearance at Madison Square Garden, performing before thousands at SuperSkate 2000, a NY Rangers Charity Hockey event that benefited NYR SKATE and The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.
With their popularity rocketing faster than an Al MacInnis slap shot, The Zambonis were commissioned to create a theme for The Boston Bruins. In the fall of 2001, “To Bleed Black and Gold” was featured as the title song to a highly rated New England Sports Network (NESN) one-hour special about New England’s beloved hockey heroes. The foursome also eagerly accepted the Bruins’ invitation to perform at Ray Bourque Night at The Fleet Center in October 2001.
Due to fan demand, The Zambonis released a CD EP that featured “To Bleed” plus live gems and unreleased rarities. Although the CD quickly sold out, its rare tracks will soon be downloadable on Apple’s iTunes website.
Always there when needed, The Zambonis gave a quick “Heck yeah!” to Denis Leary when he called on them to perform at his Celebrity Hat Trick benefit at the Worcester Centrum in September 2001.
In February 2002, The Zambonis made their most memorable appearance to date: a highly publicized on-ice performance during the 2002 NHL All-Star Game at The Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Zambonis performed alongside such notable mainstream acts as Jewel, Five For Fighting and Unwritten Law.
The band fondly recalls the trip for another reason: They shared a dressing area with the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, reunited in their entirety for the first time since capturing Gold in Lake Placid. “One of the most prized pictures I have is a shot I took with Mike Eruzione,” confesses Dave.
In winter 2002, four Zambonis songs were featured on the Midway video game NHL Hitz 2003. The game, playable on Xbox, PlayStation2 and Gamecube, became a monster hit with hockey fans, and included [non-hockey] songs by Rob Zombie, Moby, Incubus, Hoobastank and Powerman 5000.
In March 2003, The Zambonis released a new CD, Chippy Sessions, a compilation of rare live cuts, singles, demos, and sneak previews of songs from their forthcoming full-length release.
In December 2003, The Zambonis beat out Missy Elliot and the Alien Quadrilogy [but fell short of topping Miss Piggy and her fellow Muppets] in Entertainment Weekly as one of the “Must-Haves For The Holidays.” Coming in strong at #5, the article stated “Finally: a hockey-themed band we can all love!”
In April 2004, The Wall Street Journal featured The Zambonis in a front-page story that revealed the growing sports-rock connection. The band was only slightly miffed when their views regarding Keynsian economics were cut from the piece.
In late August 2004, ESPN’s SportsCenter featured The Zambonis in a special report that investigated the relationship between athletes and musicians. The piece also included Detroit Red Wings tough guy Darren McCarty and his band Grinder.
In conjunction—and with the NHL lockout looming—ESPN.com posed 10 Burning Questions for The Zambonis. In the still-posted article, the band revealed their collection of hockey jerseys had passed the 300 mark.
Also in August 2004, The Zambonis took home the “Best Rock Band” title in The Fairfield Weekly's Grand Band Slam.
In October 2004, leading puck-fan website InsideHockey.com invited The Zambonis to become regular “celebrity columnists.”
In December 2004, The Zambonis caused an international sensation—in Riga, Latvia of all places—performing at the first game of the NHL Worldstars European tour. With the NHL lockout causing stir-craziness, a 30-player team featuring such NHL stars as Rob Blake, Martin Brodeur, Sergei Federov, Tie Domi, and dozens more organized a series of hockey games versus national teams throughout Europe.
The Zambonis performed at an event called “The biggest sports event in Latvia’s history” by Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. In their whirlwind four-day trip, the band performed on a national television program, a popular radio station, a shopping mall—and a punk club. Adding to their collection, they returned home with official jerseys from their host team, RIGA 2000.
In late January 2005, The Zambonis realized a career-long dream with their appearance in The Hockey News. In addition to a full-page color photo of the band, the magazine featured a byline article featuring keen hockey and rock insights from Dave Schneider and drummer/goon Mat Orefice.
In February 2005, the band was invited to perform at the NAHL (North American Hockey League) All-Star Game just outside Dallas, Texas. Honored as the “Official Band of the NAHL,” The Zambonis performed at a special pre-game on-ice concert and traded stories with Rob Blake and former Olympic (and NHL) stars Ken Morrow and Neil Broten.
The Zambonis’ music became accessible to the masses when the popular online music download service iTunes added The Zambonis in early 2005. Within weeks, the band became the most downloaded hockey band in the world.
An internationally syndicated article about the band appeared in April 2005 from Halifax to Naples and Minneapolis to Toronto. The article chronicled the fan-effect of the NHL lockout, which created surprising demand for The Zambonis’ brand of hockey rock.
Later in April 2005, The Zambonis embarked on the longest road trip of their career. Hand-picked as the opening act for a three-week spring tour for Reprise Records recording artists, Guster, The Zambonis performed for over 25,000 during the stint which took them from Ohio to Minnesota.
The bands clicked so well that Guster’s Adam Gardner and The Zambonis’ Dave Schneider formed a side band, The LeeVees, who entered the studio in Spring 2005 to record a CD featuring ten songs about Channukah. “This will be a first,” proclaims Dave, “an album that 1.78% of us can call their own!” The LeeVees signed a record deal with Warner Bros. Records and released a full legnth cd entitled “Chanukah Rocks” in October of 2005. The LeeVees then embarked on a month tour with The Barenaked Ladies.
In Februaury 2006, The band signed a record deal solely for Canada with Nettwerk Records. A greatest hits compilation with 3 new tracks will be released in Sept 2006 and then a new realease will follow.
In March of 2006 The Zambonis catchy hit “Hockey Monkey” was chosen by FOX TV as the theme song to a new sitcom called “The Loop” The show aired right after American Idol on March 15th and was viewed by 14 million viewers. (that’s like getting a tape-to-tape pass from Wayne Gretzky!). The song also won Blender Magazine’s Best Monkey Song Ever competition. Beating out Foo Fighters (Monkey Wrench) Beastie Boys (Brass Monkey) and The Monkees (Monkees Theme Song). Hockey monkey was also the #1 played and requested song on Sirius radio from May 22 to July 1, 2006. Not bad for a song written in a bathroom in VT.
In September of 2006 The band performed “Hockey Monkey” live on CBC TV show “Hockeyville”. In December 2006 NBC SPORTS did a nice 5 minute feature on the band.
March 2007 The bands recording of "I Wanna Drive The Zamboni" is featured on the soundtrack of "Blades Of Glory". A film starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite).
Jan of 2008 saw The NHL and the band join forces again when they used The Zambonis song "Boom Boom Boom" for the NHL TV Networks National ad campaign. The Versus Network, another TV channel affiliated with the NHL is also using a ton of Zambonis songs for their on air broadcast.
Guitarist and Zambonis’ producer, Peter Katis, has made quite a name for himself off the ice as well. In addition to ongoing projects with his other band, The Philistines, Jr., Peter has gained acclaim for his recent recording work with Interpol, The Get Up Kids, Guster, The National, Von Bondies, Spoon, ours and others. Each act faced off with Peter at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the home recording facility of The Zambonis.
In addition to Dave Schneider, The Zambonis feature: Jon Aley (guitar, bass, winger), Steve Tanski (guitar, bass, forward), Mat Orefice (drums, enforcer) Tarquin Katis (hardcore vocalist, center), Peter Katis (Producer, chippy but solid defensemen), Matt Gonzales (Hockey Monkey)
What to Expect
“On paper, it sounds like a novelty: an album of songs that celebrate hockey. But in the hands of The Zambonis (a pop-rock quartet named after the ice-grooming machine), the concept is elevated to an art form that won’t melt under the heat of critics or music fans. Despite the specificity of the album’s theme, The Zambonis rock out like the best power pop units. What’s more, they have a sense of humor about themselves…A timely and surprisingly appealing release.”
“They’re actually funny and actually rock!”
--Time Out New York
“Their new record is as goofy, poppy and puck-obsessed as their previous two…Hockey heads and indie rock fans, you’ll love these guys!”
“The Zambonis may sound like a simple novelty act, but it scores repeatedly with a bunch of snappy little power-pop songs. Even if you wouldn’t know what a slapshot was if it hit you in the face, you’ll cheer.”
--The New Yorker
“The Zamboni is a massive machine used to smooth the ice at hockey rinks, but these days the name has a much cooler reference.
--Mike (“Doc”) Emrick, NHL Commentator
“I love The Zambonis!”
--Alexei Kovalev, New York Rangers
“The most insidious threat to Canadian hockey hegemony is…a quirky power pop band called The Zambonis.”
--The National Post (Canada)
“You wacky singing hockey nuts!”
“With a repertoire comprised exclusively of hockey songs, you’d think they’re destined for a short run: A cult band singing about a cult sport…but their cult is getting noticed.”
--The Village Voice
“My day ended on a phenomenally high note. I went to see The Zambonis, who are the best power pop band ever to sing songs about hockey.”
“There’s something weirdly affable about a bunch of guys who love hockey so much, they’ve dedicated a band to it.”
--The Village Voice
“Like a beach party on ice!”
“Dude, I love The Zambonis.”
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