By ROSALYN ROY
ST. JOHN’S – Just because she never played hockey doesn’t mean musician Jackie Sullivan isn’t among the most passionate of fans. In fact, Jackie has so much fiery hockey blood that she had to write a song about it, a song that even Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) noticed.
Originally Sullivan had applied to be on the Rogers Hometown Hockey viewing party,
planning to take a bunch of kids with her to share a cool experience by appearing, however briefly, on HNIC. As part of that process, she ended up on a Zoom call with HNIC hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone.
“When Ron MacLean got on the Zoom call, the very first words out of his mouth were, ‘Is Jackie Sullivan here?’ and I almost died!”
Sullivan had sent her press release about her new single, Fiery Hockey Blood, to Rogers Hometown Hockey and Ron MacLean, but unbeknownst to her it had also come across his desk after Russell Bowers with CBC Alberta sent it in also.
“I wasn’t anticipating any conversation with Ron MacLean at all,” admits Sullivan. “I was completely sideswiped and I got really emotional.”
Sullivan says she could barely speak about her song when he invited her to do so. She believes that Newfoundland has a unique hockey culture – go hard or go home, never back down – she calls it. That’s what she documented in her press release.
After she told them about the province’s passion for the sport, mentioned some local heroes and legend Bob Cole who were featured in the video, Sloan made her a promise.
“Tara Sloan said ‘You have my word, when we are back on the road, we will use this as our anthem’,” says Sullivan.
Not long after that, MacLean mentioned Jackie on HNIC. Since then, Sullivan has continued marketing the song across North America. She has been interviewed by CBC NL and recently did an interview with Boston College where Alex Newhook attends school. Newhook, who is a Newfoundlander, played for Team Canada during the last World Juniors.
Sullivan vividly remembers the hunger on his face as Newhook come onto the ice and scored a goal against Russia, less than a minute into the game.
“That’s the fire that I’m talking about – fiery hockey blood. What he just demonstrated is exactly the sentiment behind the song,” says Sullivan. “What I’ve learned is that everybody seems to have a hockey story of some sort, you know?”
In fact, people have started reaching out to Sullivan from across the country, even sharing videos of themselves singing Fiery Hockey Blood. She says it’s all so incredible, particularly as she never anticipated such an overwhelming response to her song.
“As a song writer, it sometimes can be an unnerving process to pitch your music to the world. Ultimately you are giving a piece of yourself, of your soul really, so there’s no guarantee that people are going to like it,” admits Sullivan.
Combining her passion for hockey with her passion for music is a no-brainer. Sullivan grew up with music, surrounded by it in her home and community.
“I have vivid memories of 8-tracks and records and spending hours listening to them on the floor in my living room. I was 8 years old when I got my first guitar,” shares Sullivan.
Back then only her brothers played hockey, and girls usually didn’t play the sport, says Sullivan. In order to make up for dragging her around at all hours in a tiny Chevette, her parents bought her the guitar at Echo Music on Long’s Hill.
“It wasn’t something that I had asked for, but once I had it in my hands I spent hours and hours trying to learn and play on my own, and it was just something that I developed an incredible love for, and I started writing at a very young age,” recalls Sullivan.
She counts Anne Murray as one of the greater influences on her music, and owns most if not all of her albums. Sullivan even enjoyed a Zoom chat with her legendary idol not too long ago. She says Murray has a great sense of humour and is very down to earth.
“It was very much a dream come true for me,” she says. “I always loved Anne Murray’s voice, but I always loved her personality too.”
Sullivan says she likes old country as well, and tends to gravitate towards other female artists like Irish musician Mary Black. Like so many other artists, Sullivan has been impacted professionally by the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, she was booked for a tour at venues across the province.
“It all had to be cancelled, and for someone like me,” she says, “I do this because it’s my passion, because I love it with my whole heart, and it’s just a part of who I am.”
Sullivan was also scheduled to perform in Ireland but that invariably got postponed too. She had been accepted to perform at the International Irish-Newfoundland Connections Festival, an event that usually takes place every year.
“I was supposed to perform in Southeast Ireland in August of 2020 and of course that didn’t happen,” says Sullivan. “I’ve never been to Ireland. I’ve never toured there. But I was so excited and looking forward to sharing my music and just performing in a place that feels like home.”
Her acceptance still stands, so once the festival resumes Sullivan still plans to go.
“I cannot wait for that to happen.”
While she waits to perform live again, Sullivan is happily enjoying the NHL players showcase their own fiery hockey blood, even in a shortened season. Her favourite team is the Montreal Canadiens.
“I really believe in the profound story behind the song, and I really believe it will resonate in the hearts of every hockey lover across this country.”