Tom Cochrane’s “Big League” is an Anthem of Healing in Wake of Humboldt Broncos Crash

All the right moves when he turned eighteen
Scholarship and school on a big U.S. team
Out with his girl near Lake Mcclean
Hit a truck doing seventy in the wrong lane
To the big league
My boy’s gonna play in the big league
My boy’s gonna turn some heads




Play in the big league

In 1988 Tom Cochrane wrote “Big League”. The song is written from the view of a father whose son dreamed of playing hockey in the NHL. Sadly, the dream was cut short. A truck driving in the wrong lane hit the 18-year old and his girlfriend. The song was full of Canadian sorrow and a loss of innocence. Thirty years later, “Big League” has found a resurgence.

A bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team crashed into a truck en route to Nipawin for a game Friday night. The crash killed 16 people, sending over a dozen to the hospital.

Cochrane has found it difficult to process the tragic news.  The Juno winner has been receiving tweets from fans, asking permission if they can use the 1988 tune in a video tribute to the Saskatchewan team.

There have been other tunes that people are using to ease their grief.  Tragically Hip’s “Wheat Kings” was featured in a montage of photos of the team on last weekend’s edition of Coach’s Corner during Hockey Night in Canada. Country singer, Paul Brandt performed “Small Towns and Big Dreams” on CBC’s Q this week. He rewrote the lyrics to make it more hockey-themed at host Ron McLean’s request.

The song took on a life of its own

Cochrane played hockey as a kid and understands the Canadian culture surrounding the sport. “It’s a big family in this country,” said Cochrane. “The game is a galvanizing force on that junior level. It defines the country more than even the big cities do.”

Looking back to the night a man approached him before a 1987 concert in Northern Ontario, Tom recalled “he was talking in the past tense,” Cochrane remembered. “He said: he was a really good hockey player and had a promising career. It really stuck with me.” He wrote about the tragic incident,  building a back story around the accident. It took him less than half an hour to form the basic structure of the song. “Big League” appeared on his album Victoria Day. It charted well, years before Cochrane’s other smash hit “Life is a Highway.”

The song took on a life that he didn’t expect. Fans from Texas said they related it to basketball, as Brits did to soccer.

Tom says it’s too early to look beyond the accident. He hopes people can find some heeling in the music.

“It’s so sad and depressing, but out of that will come more strength,” he said. “We all want to help out in some way. I think this outpouring of support is a good thing.”

We’ll leave you with Paul Brandt performing “Small Towns and Big Dreams” on CBC’s Q.


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