Sitting high above the ice at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, Tom Grainger can see almost everything that goes on.
The media room (and food) are conveniently located to his right, the video replay booth is to his left and directly across from him sits the Victoria Royals hockey bench. He has the perfect view of both nets and thousands of people sitting below him as well.
Grainger, a West Shore resident and business teacher at Belmont secondary school, is the DJ for the Royals.
He is responsible for choosing the music in the arena during home games — from goal songs to intermission music and tongue-in-cheek songs that come on during power plays or when the opposing team scores.
“I see my job as really to pump up the fans. Everything that I do is for the fans and to get them more engaged and active,” said the 31-year-old. “I measure my success based on how involved the fans are in the game, how loud they’re cheering.”
Grainger has a computer with seven folders of roughly 1,000 songs to play in every situation, 300 of which are crowd favourites he constantly plays, including classic rock music from Metallica, Led Zeppelin and of course, Tom Connors’ “The Hockey Song.”
Grainger will play “Say it ain’t so” by Weezer when the away team scores. He’ll play Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” if an opposing team player crashes into the Royals net minder, ACDC’s “Thunderstruck” before a penalty shot, or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call me maybe” if a call goes to video replay.
Grainger said the Royals players enjoy when he includes songs with their names, such as playing “1994” by Jason Aldean when defenseman Joe Hicketts scores or ACDC’s “Big Jack” for winger Jack Walker. He’ll cycle through roughly 80 songs in one game.
Being a DJ is a talent Grainger learned during his time working in guest services on the Fantasmic! show in Disneyland in Florida while he completed his business degree at the University of Victoria.
Having grown up playing hockey in Sooke, his first DJ gig was with the Salmon Kings in the East Coast Hockey League.
Shortly after, he applied for the DJ job with the Royals and for the past 10 years, Grainger has been spinning the tunes audiences and players enjoy from game start to finish.
It’s not just about playing certain songs, but having the music reflect how fans are feeling and contributing to the overall experience, Grainger said.
“If the fans are feeling a certain way during the game, then I’ll pick a song based on that and try to really match the mood of the crowd,” he said.
“There’s a lot of thought that goes into every song we play … It’s really rewarding when you put something on that matches the mood in the building and the crowd really gets into it.”
However, some nights can be more challenging than others. Low-scoring games or games when the Royals are losing can be more difficult to get the crowd engaged, Grainger admitted.
“If it’s quiet in here, we’ll play some clapping and organ bits to keep the fans engaged,” he said. “Our hope is that the fans will give the players the spark they need out on the ice.”
Grainger is quick to credit the entertainment team with his success.
“We have an NHL-calibre game entertainment team and that makes it easier to come back every year,” he said, adding the team also includes the PA announcer, lighting person and game producer. “Working through everything during the game as a team is really cool and I think because we’re such a strong team, we’re able to do some really cool things.”
Up next, Grainger is gearing up for the most exciting time in WHL hockey — the playoffs.
He said the music will be more dramatic to match the level of excitement in the arena.