The gift that keeps on giving…even though no one asked for it!
Happy Holi-Chris-Kawan-Hana-whatever! I’m back to bring you hilarious joy as you decorate the domicile or as you just get around to throwing out the rotting Jack-o-lantern with some quality throw back “puck juck” from 1979!
These days, a lot of our hockey teams produce fun little videos celebrating the time of year and thanking the fans; it’s nice — and awkward as hell. The Boston Bruins put out a spectacular video in 2013, the San Jose Sharks owned 2014 with their ode to Holiday Sweaters, and the awkward nod to capitalism thanks to the Calgary Flames in 2015.
But, before we had the interwebs to entertain us with these holiday greetings, what cheer would we receive from our boys? Enter the 1979-80 New York Islanders!
Before this team was better known for starting a dynasty of Cup hoarding, they were just lovable losers who choked in the playoffs to their big New York brothers, the Rangers. But Long Island Strong Guyland is one giant suburb of families, and family is what the holidays are all about. So these big lugs put out a Christmas album entitled “Home for the Holidays” as a thanks to their suffering fan base while they waited for the birth of their savior, John Tavares.
You know, there are a lot of Jewish families on Long Island; would it have killed the Isles to sing Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel too?
Anyway, this is a great snapshot of the time, with its early synth-laden backing tracks, disco beat-n-bass and some chorus-drenched 70’s hard rock guitar on songs like Santa Claus is Coming to Town and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Most of the singing is led by the overqualified voice of Joe Duerr, their longtime anthem singer who can knock out the Star Spangled Banner in about a minute but never make the song feel rushed.
The rest of the team sings in a gang-vocal style as backup on many of the songs, as well as rolling through All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, something every hockey player wants. During the bridge of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the team engages in some banter, asking each other what they want Santa to bring them. It’s hard to tell who is who, as the players call each other by their nicknames and half of them sound like Cliff Clavin from Cheers, but one wants Bryan Trottier’s time on the power play, while another wants Clark Gillies contract and the captain’s “C” on his sweater!
The front cover is pretty unassuming, with just the Islanders logo framed in gold. Sealed albums have a sticker with the “Home for the Holidays” title. Otherwise, no indication that this is a holiday album on the front.
Inside the gatefold — a gatefold! They spent a little money! — are some classic action shots of the players, some helmeted and others not, taking on the likes of the Habs and the North Stars, and one of the gang in the studio recording this gem. There’s also a nice letter from Duerr thanking fans.
The back lists everyone involved on the album, the whole team, a warning that unauthorized reproduction of this album is prohib — AND LET’S JUST MOVE ALONG and talk about the great/terrible picture of the Christmas tree where all the players and coaches are featured as the decorative balls. Very mustachioed; very 70’s chic!
As of this writing, there is someone who is selling three original copies of the fine album on Ebay THAT ARE STILL SEALED for the low, low price of $24.99 plus shipping. So yeah, go pick up this album if you come across it and drop a needle while your Christmas tree does the same and you continue to vacuum them up in May. When you mom puts on the Bruce Springsteen Christmas Album, you can be like “MOOOOOM! I don’t wanna listen to the Boss; I wanna listen to Bossy!”
One last note before I go. This record most likely migrated in one of the waves of Long Island families that has moved down here to North Carolina. I know. I married into one. Many of these family members are quite excited to hear this record and I’m more than happy to make them suffer though it listen to it!
Happy Whatever, Puck Fans!
Jim Howard is a Carolina Hurricanes fan and reformed baseball card collector who is trying to keep the hockey collection from becoming overwhelming. And while he wishes he could give Crosby the business with his mitt, he is in fact NOT the goalie for the Red Wings. ■