‘Slap Shot’ organist finds new career with expansion Kraken

Mar 2, 2022, 10:13 AM | Updated: Mar 3, 2022, 6:09 am
Seattle Kraken organist Rod Masters performs after a goal was scored during an NHL hockey game agai...

Seattle Kraken organist Rod Masters performs after a goal was scored during an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers at Climate Pledge Arena, on Jan. 23, 2022, in Seattle. Masters played the role of the organist in "Slap Shot," the iconic 1977 hockey movie starring Paul Newman, and now he's now part of the fraternity of organists playing in arenas around the NHL. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE (AP) — It started with an unsolicited email that landed in the inbox of the game presentation executives for the Seattle Kraken.

The name Rod Masters didn’t immediately resonate with Jonny Greco and Lamont Buford, who are in charge of overseeing entertainment and game production for the expansion franchise, though they would soon make a connection.

“I remember (Lamont) looking at me … and he’s like, ‘The dude from ‘Slap Shot’ just sent me an email,'” Greco recalled. “And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? What dude?'”

That dude would be Masters, and if the name still doesn’t ring a bell, that’s fine. Just know he may be the most famous organist to ever appear on the big screen in a sports movie, and now nearly a half-century after he made a lasting impression in “Slap Shot,” Masters is the first organist for the Kraken.

His name never appeared in the credits of the iconic 1977 movie starring Paul Newman. But anyone who’s seen the movie knows Masters as the organist plunked in the head by a wayward puck and abruptly asked by Newman’s character Reggie Dunlop to never play “Lady of Spain” ever again.

More than 40 years later, he’s now part of the fraternity of organists around the NHL, a 68-year-old living out a dream, even for someone who has worked as a professional musician all over North America.

“I love playing for the people and they seem to be loving it. It’s just the best job I could ever even dreamed that I would have,” Masters said. “I had retired and then I thought just for the heck of it I’ll email them. … I would think this a great job for any musician.”

Organ or keyboard music is synonymous with hockey. It was even part of the soundtrack of the Beijing Olympics during stoppages in play.

Of the 32 NHL teams, only six — Philadelphia, Carolina, Dallas, Arizona, Vegas and Edmonton — don’t have an organist playing during games. Vegas, the last team to join the league before Seattle, didn’t have an organist in its first year, but tried it in Year 2. With all the other entertainment that went into the game production, the organ sound didn’t fit the soundtrack of Las Vegas.

“I don’t think we set up the people that we had in the mix for great success, but it also just didn’t kind of feel right,” said Greco, who along with Buford oversaw entertainment and game presentation for the Golden Knights before joining the Kraken. “The train was on the tracks for a lot of the Vegas elements and that just felt a little obtuse.”

In the midst of starting the franchise in Seattle, there were thousands of boxes for the entertainment staff to check. One that remained unmarked when the season began was in-house organist.

But Masters’ email offering his services lingered as a reminder. If the Kraken wanted that organ sound reverberating through Climate Pledge Arena, someone was interested.

One problem: While he played a hockey organist in the movie, Masters had never done that kind of performing in his long musical career. At the time the movie was being filmed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Masters was playing regularly at the Sheraton Hotel where the cast and crew were staying.

Most of his music background was in Top 40s, pop, disco and country. Not little vignettes to play in between slashes, trips and goals.

“I’m new at this. That’s why I’m doing all this research all of a sudden,” Masters said. “I never knew that I would ever get a job like this.”

One of the peers Masters has reached out to for advice is Jeremy Boyer, who has been the organist for the St. Louis Blues for 15 years. Boyer is a star, performing primarily for the Blues, but also the St. Louis Cardinals at times.

He has amassed a massive social media following with his skill taking popular songs and making them rock via the organ.

“I think you have to be a little bit of a fan. You have to enjoy the game and your music has to reflect what is happening in the game, too,” Boyer said. “I feel like I’m lucky, I’m out in the crowd so I really get the vibes of everybody that’s around me and I try to take that energy and funnel it into my music.”

Coincidentally, Masters’ debut with the Kraken on Jan. 1 came against Vancouver, whose coach, Bruce Boudreau, also appeared as an uncredited extra in the movie.

Since that debut against the Canucks, Masters has grown into his role and the team is learning ways to showcase him more. For instance, Masters tries to lighten the mood by playing after opponents score, which has been far more than the last-place Kraken were hoping this season.

Masters is also thinking ahead, with the idea of having a true organ in place for next season rather than the keyboards he’s been using in this first stint.

“I think people just thought it was really a good fit for where we were headed,” Greco said. “And it was just a super unique story we got to tell, and a character we got to add to our show that only the Seattle Kraken get to own.”

___

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Grounds crew members place a tarp over the infield at Oriole Park at Camden Yards during a rain del...
Associated Press

Blue Jays-Orioles game rained out, doubleheader on Wednesday

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays were rained out Tuesday night and are scheduled to play a doubleheader Wednesday to end the regular season. There is little significance to these last two games. The Blue Jays have clinched the top wild card in the American League, and the Orioles are assured […]
15 hours ago
New York Yankees' Aaron Judge ducks down while leading off from third base during eighth inning in ...
Associated Press

Judge shows frustration, still 61 homers with 2 games left

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Judge slammed his helmet in a rare show of frustration and the Yankees slugger remained at 61 home runs with just two games remaining to break the AL record after New York beat Texas 5-4 Tuesday to open a day-night doubleheader. Judge went 1 for 5 with a single and […]
15 hours ago
FILE - Portland Thorns fans hold signs during the first half of the team's NWSL soccer match agains...
Associated Press

Thorns owner Paulson steps away after damning abuse report

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson has removed himself from a decision-making role with the National Women’s Soccer League club until the findings are released from an ongoing investigation into numerous scandals around the league. Paulson, who is also the owner of Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, announced his decision in a […]
15 hours ago
Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber celebrates after the Phillies won a baseball game against the...
Associated Press

Third wild card creates opportunity for another playoff team

The Philadelphia Phillies grabbed baseball’s last playoff ticket on Monday, and Bryce Harper and company partied into the night. ” We’re in! We did it! We did it! ” slugger Rhys Hoskins yelled as the celebration kicked into high gear. It’s the first playoff appearance for Philly since 2011, and no one seemed to care […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Rebecca Vardy to pay $1.7M in costs after losing court fight

LONDON (AP) — Rebekah Vardy, the wife of English soccer player Jamie Vardy, has to pay about 1.5 million pounds ($1.7 million) in legal costs to fellow soccer spouse Coleen Rooney after losing the high-profile libel lawsuit she brought against Rooney. Vardy, 40, lost her libel claim against Rooney, 36, in July when a judge […]
15 hours ago
FILE - Tiger Woods follows his ball at the fourth tee during the last round of the Hero World Chall...
Associated Press

Tiger Woods yet to announce if he joins strong Bahamas field

Tiger Woods has another loaded field for his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Woods on Tuesday announced 17 players for the 20-man field, and all but four are from the top 21 in the world ranking. Still to be announced is whether the player at No. 1,195 in the world — Woods — will […]
15 hours ago
‘Slap Shot’ organist finds new career with expansion Kraken