Mike the Piper
Fans outside GM Place know he's a skilled bagpiper and those inside the venue are about to find out as well
As far as unofficial mascots of the Vancouver Canucks go, Mike the Piper is the man. |
For the past fourteen seasons the 31-year-old Squamish product has proudly stood at the corner of Beatty Street and West Georgia Street, dressed in traditional Scottish attire, and played the bagpipes following every Canucks home game.
At first Mike stood out, well, like a bagpiper unexpectedly doing his thing on a street corner, but now he and his music blend right in with the scenery.
“I’d say the majority love it, whether they say it or not, I can tell they love it,” said Mike, whose music helps celebrate Vancouver wins or forget Canucks losses.
Mike takes requests and receives plenty of them, this season the favourites have been his blazing rendition of TSN’s Hockey Theme, Scotland the Brave, Clumsy Lover and Itchy Fingers, which he gets when Vancouver is on the road and he doesn’t have an audience to perform in front of.
For anyone who hasn’t caught one of Mike’s seemingly impromptu shows, this hulking musician really gives it his all and it’s infectious to the crowd. Naturally that makes him the perfect candidate to help pump up the Canucks and their fans.
Vancouver’s game entertainment and broadcast teams recently came together to film Mike the Piper outside GM Place for an in-bowl crowd pumper that will be shown on the scoreboard during Canucks games.
In the short video Mike plays a quick tune before shouting some encouraging words towards the camera, all the while surrounded by Canucks fans.
“It was a neat experience,” said Mike, who plays publically for fun, in addition to driving trucks for a living.
The crowd pumper will debut in the next few weeks and it should be interesting to hear people’s reactions to it. Unless they’re being played in relation to Remembrance Day or AC/DC's It's A Long Way To The Top, bagpipes aren’t the most beloved of instruments.
To some a bagpipes’ traditional sound is appealing, others hear nothing but horrid shrieking noises; there seems to be a love/hate relationship with the instrument and not much middle ground.
Mike admitted he can’t stand listening to other people play on their own, but that many bagpipes playing in unison is something special.
At age 15, Mike attended the Montreal Highland Games with his dad and was taken aback by the sound of 1,500 pipers playing the same tune.
“You couldn’t hear a sound,” recalled Mike. “It was similar to a tractor pull if you’ve ever felt that, the vibrations in your stomach are intense, you can’t hear anything, you’re whole body reverberates.
“I elbowed my father in the ribs and I told him that’s what I have to do. Right there and then I realized that was something I had to do.”
The bagpipes were nothing new to Mike as his grandfather used to play them when he was young. His grandfather’s bagpipes had been sitting in the closet since his passing, so Mike blew the dust off and resurrected them.
Mike learned to play from one of his dad’s friends; he was a local judge who opened up his chambers to his piping pupil every Monday night.
At first Mike hated the instrument like nothing else, but soon he got the knack of it and started progressing through songs like the bagpipes were an extension of himself.
Practice doesn’t make perfect when it comes to bagpipes, practice makes very good, especially after the most important lesson of all is understood.
“A lot of people take a deep, deep breath and blow as hard as they can into the bag and they don’t seem to have enough air, but the trick is to just breath the normal proper way. That’s what takes years to learn, the efficiency of breathing and squeezing.”
Mike mastered the craft so well that early in his twenties he beat out 300 other players at an audition to land a gig playing the bagpipes at Disneyland Tokyo.
He’s now got numerous other musical achievements to his name and also a few official noise complaints from those not fond of him playing on the street, although he hasn’t had one in 10 years.
Mike has become a landmark at the corner of Beatty and West Georgia and as such he’s expected to be there game in and game out – bagpipes, kilt, beret and all.
Soon those inside GM Place will become as familiar with him as those outside the venue – Mike the Piper: coming to a scoreboard near you.
Canucks game presentation
9 - Notes on a bagpipe
90 - Songs Mike the Piper can play
1000 BC - When bagpipes were thought to be invented in Egypt, although there is no way of knowing for certain