For 26 years Jimmy Holmstrom has been the man behind the organ at Leafs games. And if you ask anyone who has had the pleasure of watching a game from the organ loft they’ll tell you stories of Jimmy and his passion for the team. I got a chance to catch up with the man responsible for pressing play on the music, the keys on the organ, and most importantly the button for the goal horn.
BP: What’s your story with the team?
JH: I am a life-long Blue & White fan! As a child, I was even on Bay Street in 1967, cheering in the ticker-tape atmosphere! I was even picked up and set in one of the cars with a few players. George Armstrong became my favourite player that special day. Oops, but then I had to jump out and search for my kid brother Jon, whom I left on the curb! Twenty years later I met with Mr. Gord Stellick who offered me an invitation to work at Maple Leaf Gardens … I was in heaven! Twenty-six years later I still get to work with Mike, Deaner, Fraser and you, along with the greatest Game Crew in the NHL.
JH: I am and always have been awed by the experience. It is a unique honour to be involved with the Leafs in any capacity. I am an Organist/ DJ and I get to try my best (with a ton of help from game operations management) to create a musical atmosphere at the rink. This is like being the “Soundtrack to the game”! I love to meet and chat with people at the arena. I eagerly look forward to the communication with “tour-groups” on game day, where we exchange incredible stories of people’s history with the Maple Leafs at both the ACC and Maple Leaf Gardens.
JH: I have several – what you might call “memorable moments” every season! I loved both playoff series in 1992 and 1993 (Pat Burns’ group) and every Leafs win over Ottawa and Montreal! There were the home-coming players’ nights with the likes of Clark, Sundin, Gilmour, Sittler, Bower, 1967 & 1964 team celebrations, etc. There are numerous playoff series that I have had the thrill to be part of. Every season I am offered new “Memorable Moments.” Thank you, Leafs organization, so very much for this breathtaking experience! I was also involved with all the “live” music in the arena segments of the movie “How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days” with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson … even spent time with them on the set!!!
BP: A few seasons ago you had to teach leafs legend Wendel Clark how to play the organ for a commercial. How was that experience?
JH: Wendel Clark was my student! Wow! That said … I did whatever he told me I could do! The commercial was quite funny as his hands are so big that it was tough for him to play only one key with one finger. He also stated that his knuckles were huge from hitting people … that’s when I ran for my life and almost didn’t complete the video. As a huge Clark fan it was a constant effort to teach Wendel the notes and timing without “pinching” myself and screaming “YOU’RE WENDEL CLARK – WE LOVE YOU!”
BP: I know it’s hard, but if you had to pick a favourite player in leafs history who would it be? Why?
JH: Impossible question to answer – Why? Because, I have loved so many of the Leafs for such a long time. I’ve been a fan for over 40 years now! Examples: Salming – I’m Swedish, Armstrong – 1st captain (I met as a kid), Clark (I’ve published a personal Wendel story in Chicken Soup for the Hockey Soul), Tucker & Gilmour (guts & glory personified), just to start. With the “Coca-Cola Zero Ambush” I’ve worked with so many awesome former Leaf players. I’ve been very lucky that they feel I’m approachable and I’m so pleased to share communications with them. The list is incredible! Sittler, Armstrong, Osborne, Clark, Tiger, Dryden … OMG – HOW could I decide on just one? We haven’t even mentioned former coaches! Roger Neilson was GREAT! He’d sit with Neil Smith beside me at the Gardens in the Organ booth!
BP: You’re also in charge of the goal horn. What is the greatest goal you’ve seen while working a game?
JH: EVERY winning goal becomes my new “greatest” goal! In shootouts, I remember slamming the horn then worrying “Do I play the Leaf Goal celebration or the End of Game music! There different tunes! Yikes!” Sundin, J.V.R., Lupul, Bozak, Raymond, etc… But you MUST give equal “greatest” moments in goal celebration moments to OUR goalies that have stopped the opposition! Bernier and Reimer – What a duo!
Thanks to all of you that entered Universal Music contest to see the Leafs and Black Sabbath in Ottawa this weekend.