ESPN hockey anthem makes triumphant return for Frozen Four


PHILADELPHIA – Hockey fans, prepare for nostalgia. ESPN’s coverage of the Frozen Four will take a skate down memory lane when it utilizes the popular theme music which accompanied ESPN’s NHL telecasts from the early 1990s and into the new decade. Word of its return came with immediate fanfare.

Eric Loh, ESPN associate manager of programming, had thought the music would be perfect for the Frozen Four.

“The old NHL theme is synonymous with big matchups,” Loh said. “The Frozen Four is the pinnacle of the college hockey season and is the right event for the theme’s return to an ESPN’s telecast.”


“We will use it as our featured theme for both semifinals and final,” said John Vassallo, senior coordinating producer. “Fans can expect to hear it when we transition to and from commercial, under ‘billboards’ and throughout the telecast where we formerly used the NCAA Championships theme.”

With the theme music dormant for so long, Front Row investigated its origin. The trail led us to Bob Christianson, a renowned composer who has written and arranged some of sports most popular theme songs, including the famed NHL theme music.

“Interestingly, the Buffalo Sabres have a prominent role within that theme music, which no one would know,” said Christianson, a Sports Emmy nominee. “When I was writing and creating the theme, I needed to incorporate authentic hockey sounds into it. I went to a Sabres game and recorded sounds at ice level throughout their warm-ups — blades on the ice, sticks connecting with the puck, players and the puck hitting the plexiglass – sounds fans are intrinsically familiar with at a rink. I then worked those sounds subtly into the final product.”

You can hear that version, complete with the sound effects, in the file embedded above.

“From start to finish, it probably took me about 25 hours to create,” he said. “I submitted it to ESPN for consideration and luckily, they chose it. Over the years, ESPN used a number of my themes, including ESPN Olympic Trials, ESPN Golf and ESPN on ABC.”

Front Row also discovered another layer to Christianson’s NHL theme music. In 2005, a rock version of the theme was created but was never used on an NHL telecast. The music did make a cameo in 2012 during a KHL telecast, but remains unknown by most fans. . . until now (listen below).

John Buccigross, Barry Melrose, and Quint Kessenich will call all three games from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The semifinals begin today (5 p.m., ESPN2) with Boston College vs. Union followed by North Dakota vs. Minnesota. The Frozen Four Championship Game is Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

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