(Editor’s Note: At the home opener, I wrote that the Islanders’ new goal song, as chosen by Zenon Konopka, was “Live is Life” by Opus. Then I quoted Phil Collins: “I don’t care anymore.” Turns out I do, enough for one final post on the subject…CB)
Zenon Konopka was five years old when an Austrian band named Opus had a No. 1 hit in Canada with “Live is Life.” At the start of this season, Konopka led the charge to have “Live is Life” become the song played after Islanders goals at Nassau Coliseum. As if that’s not enough, Konopka made an added request of the Islanders’ game operations staff for the team’s next home game on Friday night at the Coliseum: he wants a different version of the song.
“There’s a better version where it’s slowed down a bit,” Konopka told Point Blank of the “Na Na, Na Na-Na” that most observers of the Islanders’ second and third home games cannot get out of their heads. “We’re going to change it up for the Montreal game. It’s just a little slower. The crowd will chant it in unison. You’ll see a difference. You’ll see.”
Konopka has a personal history with the cheesy pop tune. Raised in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Konopka heard the song after goals scored by the neighborhood Junior B team, the Niagara Falls Canucks. Years later, playing for the Portland (Maine) Pirates of the American Hockey League…well, he should really tell the story.
“We’re in Portland in 2005 and we’ve got a good team, but we’re missing something,” said Konopka. He pointed at two of his Islanders teammates in the locker room. “My guys Pierre-Alexander Parenteau and Trevor Gillies were there with me. I played ‘Live is Life’ and said we should make it our theme, our rallying cry, our goal song. We did, and then we just kept scoring and scoring and winning games.”
Led by first-year coach Kevin Dineen, the Pirates finished 53-19-8 before losing in the deciding game of the conference final.
Konopka thought “Live is Life” would be perfect for the young and energetic Islanders. With the support of Parenteau and Gillies, he got the blessing of his teammates. Then he took it to the staff. Konopka couldn’t get the Goal Song change approved in time for the home opener, which the Islanders lost to Dallas in a shootout. “All I know is,” Konopka said with that pugilist’s grin of his, “someone on the staff cost us a point in the standings.” (I’m pretty sure Konopka was kidding).
So one of the more unlikely tunes for a hockey goal song in NHL history returns for its third game on Friday night against the iconic Montreal Canadiens. Konopka is convinced that the few Islanders fans that have not completely embraced the ditty yet will soon be on board.
“So many teams play the same old thing,” he said. “This song is unique to us in the NHL. By the time we scored a few goals when we debuted it, you could hear the fans doing the Na Nas. It’s fantastic. I know it’s only to get better. This team, these incredible fans…this is our song.”
Konopka was asked if the song has a personal meaning to him.
“Are you kidding,” he said. “Live is life, man.”
And if you think this wasn’t meant to be, how about the Islanders picking up Michael Grabner on waivers after Konopka played DJ? Like Opus, the guy’s from Austria. There you have it. Na Na, Na Na-Na.
Notes: As rumored, Kirill Kabanov was traded within the Quebec League by Moncton to Maine for four draft picks. Moncton getting rid of him after offering Kabanov a second chance is yet another wakeup call for the troubled Russian teenager.
After practice today, Scott Gordon said Michael Grabner (groin) was doubtful for both weekend games.
Hurry, hurry. Step right up and get in your final comments of the season on the goal song. See you Friday.