I had a burning question going into the training camp: at some point during last season, I noticed that the Jackets' music to which they'd take the ice for pre-game warmups had changed. It used to be something a bit more hard-rock/metal-ish, and it switched to Jay Z's "Public Service Announcement." Why the change? I decided to try to get to the bottom of that, and along the way find out a bit about the musical psyche of the Blue Jackets.
In doing that, I learned something new on Sunday, courtesy of R.J. Umberger: Marc Methot is the man in charge of the music for the club. From front to back, start to finish. I asked RJ in passing, and he told me Meth was the man to talk to. Apparently, the leadership group will chime in if something needs a change, but Methot is the guy that loads the stereo. (Umberger also confirmed that the mid-season switch to Hova was not any attempt to change mojo, but just a change to get something different.)
First, a little bit of actual hockey from Methot as he prepares for the season. And then, a little look into the pre-game and post-game musical word of the Columbus Blue Jackets, courtesy of DJ Methot Man (he does not go by this; I'm just kind of a dork).
Methot is coming into a season in which a good bit is expected from him; after all, he was just given a four-year, $12 million extension that will keep him in Union Blue until the 2014-2015 season. He's showed flashes of being a very solid blue-liner, and got a chance to play with Team Canada for this summer's World Championships. Scott Arniel had said earlier in the summer that Methot would get playing time almost exclusively on the left side, as he plays better there. Methot agreed. "I love it," he said, without hesitation. "I'm way more physical on the left side. I can close on guys faster. It's natural for me to swing off to the left and finish guys off. I'm a little more confident with closing."
Methot was quick to point out that this is not a new development in his game, but due to the needs of the club he often found himself on the right side last year. "That was something that hasn't ever changed," he said. "I was just moving to the right side for the past few years because we needed more right defensemen. I can handle that responsibility, but it's a lot easier for me on the left."
To that end, when asked about the influx of right-handed defensemen (James Wisniewski and Radek Martinek are both right-shooters), Methot said it was, "awesome. It's awesome. It's natural. You know that when you're getting the puck on the transition, you don't have to look across the ice. That d-man is right there. He's gonna catch it on his forehand and he's going right up. It's just easier to make break-out passes and get it up to our forwards quicker."
We talked about his shot, and my boy Matt Wagner pointed out that Methot's shot looks more accurate so far in the early going. Methot credits that to a stick change in the off-season. "I changed sticks. I've changed to a much better stick, and it's unbelieveable the difference. You wouldn't think that making a small change like that would alter your shot a lot, but it did with me. I kinda have a shot again. I'm going to use it." Methot said there wasn't a real change in the stick properties; just a different brand, from Reebok last season to Easton this season: "There's a big difference between those two, and I'm noticing it."
It's clear Methot is excited and expecting to have a solid season.
But, what about getting the team primed for the games? Methot takes pride in being the go-to guy for putting the warm-up mixes together. And, in talking to him about it, it's clearly a job he enjoys. How did it start? "It's simple," Methot told me. "We just got sick of hearing the same warm-up music. A lot of teams around the league choose their own stuff, and I go around and see what the guys want to listen to. Normally I'll put a CD together that can get all the guys pumped up."
As noted above, the team started with something heavy (Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell," Methot says, or something of its ilk), but says his teammates seemed to do better with something less heavy. "The guys kind of reacted a little bit better to more pop/hip-hop kind of stuff. That's kind of the direction we ended up going," he says with a chuckle. It's clear if he had his druthers the selection would drift more toward the heavy stuff.
I pressed Methot about what his choice would be if it was a warm-up CD just for him. "Oh boy," Methot said with a long sigh. "I think a combination of hard rock with hip-hop and house music. I'm a little bit of both. ... I'm gonna mix it up [this season]. I'm making a whole bunch [of CDs] right now. It's awesome. We love being able to go out there and listen to our own stuff."
While Methot takes the lead, it's clear that the other guys in the room don't shy away from letting their opinions be known. When I first asked Umberger about it, he noted that some guys would "chirp in" if they had requests or didn't like what was being played. "They'll let me know," Methot said. "If they're getting sick of something, they'll tell me right away."
Methot takes requests, too. In a room full of more than 20 guys from various parts of the world, there are bound to be differences in preference. "I know RJ really likes Eminem," Methot noted. "Especially last year...we were snagging a lot of stuff from that album." When I asked if there were any teammates that really got in his ear more than anyone else, he named a few names. "Guys like Brass (Derick Brassard), Umby sometimes... [Fedor] Tyutin loves his techno music. Every moment; he loves his techno. It goes hand-in-hand with being from Russia, I'm sure. You get a lot of different tastes. It keeps me on my toes."
The biggest hurdle for Methot when putting together playlists based on his teammates' musical tastes? Keeping it clean. "The biggest thing is to find clean songs that don't have a lot of swearing in them," Methot said. "I've gotta go on iTunes and buy the clean versions."
Methot also loads the stereo system in the dressing room for post-win celebrations. And, it's clear he enjoys doing it for his teammates. "I love it," Methot said. "I mean, I've got nothing else to do at home. I don't have kids, I don't have a family. It keeps me busy. I'm always making playlists on my iTunes. I enjoy it."
And, according to Methot, it's not as easy as it looks. "There's a few guys that will always say, 'Come on, Meth, put on something good,' " he said. "I call them out right away and say, 'Tell me what you want to play.' And they'll sit there, and they'll have no idea. It's really not that easy."
Indeed; managing the "official" playlist for a professional sports team is not easy, but Marc Methot accepts the responsibility, and seemingly handles it without issue. Next time you get to a game early, bend your ear when the team comes out to warm up, and maybe put your hands together once or twice for Team DJ, Marc Methot.
When Nashville comes calling in October to kick off the season, expect something exciting. "Honestly, I haven't decided," Methot said. "I'm working on it. Hopefully I'll have some pumped-up music for the guys when we start out."