If coach Randy Carlyle is the brain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, then Jimmy Holmstrom, the organist at the Air Canada Centre, is the heart. Holmstrom, who also works as a technology teacher at an elementary school in Brampton, provides the musical accompaniment to the dizzying highs and crushing lows of every Leafs home game. It’s a job he’s been doing without missing a day, he says, since September 1988.
He plays all the rink-organ classics—“Hava Nagila,” “The Bull,” “Zorba the Greek,” “Go, Leafs, Go,” and “The Walk”—live. When the game is tied, Holmstrom plays dramatic theme music. When the team is losing, he scales the tempo back. “You don’t whip the horse when it’s in 8th place in the Kentucky Derby with half a furlong to go,” he explains. “We want to motivate everybody in the building from the player to the usher. If I can’t motivate, excite, or invigorate, well, then I’m not doing my job.”
Best of all, when the Leafs score, it’s Holmstrom who gets the profound pleasure of activating the massive and deafening goal horn. The sound isn’t computer generated—it’s a real air horn, powered by a tank of compressed air beneath the ice. During a game, Holmstrom jumps from keyboard, to sampler, to goal horn and back.
“I get up here and I go from meek, mild Clark Kent to this crazed guy,” he says. “I don’t mean Superman, I become more like the Venom. Just crazed.” Here, an annotated look at his booth in the rafters of the ACC.