The NHL's War of Attrition: Playoff Picks From the Head and the Heart

Seattle folk act sound off on the NHL playoffs, skating on the road and Sigur Rós

The Head and the Heart
Curtis Wayne Millard
The Head and the Heart
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There's a hardcore hockey fan hiding beneath the Head and the Heart's sunny strumming and harmonious vocals: bassist Chris Zasche. Hailing from Seattle, Zasche didn't grow up with a hometown NHL franchise to obsess over – a blessing or a curse, depending on where you're from – but he nonetheless picked up the game, started playing regularly in men's rec leagues and even repped his local junior team, the Seattle Thunderbirds, on the band's Letterman appearance last year.

And with the NHL playoffs' annual war of attrition underway, Zasche was well-prepared to talk pucks with Rolling Stone, telling us his pick to take home the Stanley Cup, revealing how Icelandic post-rock sprites Sigur Rós get him psyched for games and deciding, once and for all, which team has the best goal song.

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What's the hockey scene like in Seattle? Do you just have to root for the Vancouver Canucks?
It's funny - if you talk to someone who doesn't really like the game, or play, there's definitely the vibe that [hockey's] not part of popular sports culture. But I think Seattle has three different men's rec leagues and one of them is the fourth biggest in the country or something. So it's kind of like underground culture, but at the same time, it feels like so many people play the game here.

There's that whole thing with Seattle trying to build an arena, trying to get an NBA and NHL team, but they're not willing to make that leap without an NBA contract. But I feel the NHL would really thrive here; there are definitely enough fans.

But with the Canucks, I feel like that border kind of just cuts off any sort of ties to that team. I think there are more Seahawks fans in Vancouver than Canucks fans in Seattle.

You guys are about to go on tour. Do you bring your skates on the road?
I did last year, yeah! We were up north a little bit and there were rinks everywhere for skating or pick-up games. I talked our piano player, Kenny, into coming with me; he's been enjoying it. But this next trip, I am not bringing my skates [laughs]. It might be tough to find some rinks in New Orleans and Florida.

Are you able to watch many games in person?
We were in Williamsburg last year and I [rode the train out] to an Islanders game. I had to leave during the third period and take a cab because there was no way I could get back in time by train. On a map, it looked way closer. ... I went to a playoff game last year between the Bruins and Rangers and it was bonkers. Those fans, they're fans.

What's been your favorite playoff series to watch so far?
I think I've watched probably the most of the Montreal/Tampa Bay series. Being in Seattle and not having a team, every year I get attracted to different teams, players, the general vibe of a team. Montreal's been really fun to watch this season - the way they kind of slumped in the middle of the regular season and came back strong. The young players have been fun to watch, too. They're kind of like Chicago and [don't play] those bruiser, heavy-hitting types of games.

But I watched Chicago/St. Louis, too; that could have been a Stanley Cup series. It's kind of a bummer that those two teams had to be matched up in the first round; either one could have made it. I had the Blues down to win it all in my playoff bracket. 

Oof. So do you think the Blackhawks are going to win it all now?
I kind of do. I think they'll definitely win their Conference; they can beat the Sharks, and Anaheim is looking shaky at times. Chicago has the full, healthy roster and pretty much the same team from last season.

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Do you have an all-time favorite playoff moment?
One of the coolest games last year was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals [between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins]. It was the [Blackhawks'] double tip-in goal in triple-overtime. These two teams were just so good; both could have won the series. 

They played over two hours of hockey, played overtime after overtime, not losing their cool. And that goal was just chance - [Blackhawk Michal] Rozsival shot it, it bounced twice, and [Bruins goalie Tuukaa] Rask didn't see a a single thing. We were in Connecticut at the time mixing our record and I was just watching period after period, getting stressed out. But that goal was nothing flashy - just hard work and perseverance of hitting the net.

Since you're not biased towards a particular  team, who has the best 'Goal' song in the NHL?
Chicago definitely has one of the coolest arena vibes. I went to a regular-season game in Chicago last year against the Kings and they destroyed the Kings in that game. And I liked how post-goal, the whole arena sings that song ['Chelsea Dagger' by the Fratellis]. It's kind of like my favorite 'goal!' arena. It feels so appropriate for Chicago.

What would your warm-up song be if you were playing in the pros?
Recently, on my way to games, I've been playing 'Festival' by Sigur Rós. It's like this six-minute song that basically builds the whole time. Just building, building, building, then a break, then the climax part. It's kind of the best; it's a beautiful song, but it can definitely pump you up.

Being Sigur Rós, it probably weirds out the visiting team, too.
[laughs] Totally! 'What's going on? What words are these?!?'

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