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The Ottawa Senators’ other weapon from Sweden

Do you cringe when you are at a party or a wedding reception and Cotton-Eyed Joe comes on?
Hey, I’m an idiot from the 80s, and the Diva cringes every time I try to go all Boogaloo Shrimp or Shabadoo on the dance floor when Pump Up the Jam is played.
But even I, Lord God King Dufus of Awkwardville, want nothing to do with the Loserfest that ensues when the DJ tries not to barf in his mouth and question his own self worth when he puts on Cotton-Eyed Joe.
All the newbs get up and do their line dance and sing along while I sit there.
“Look at them,” I say to the Diva. Or maybe the Diva says it to me. I’m not sure. We just watch them, and she shoots that ‘don’t even think about going on the dance floor’ look. They’ll be back up there when Cha-Cha Slide and the Chicken Dance come on.
But now, I have a new appreciation for Cotton-Eyed Joe. Sure, it’s still the most annoying song in the world. It’s more annoying than ‘We Like to Party’ by the Vengaboys. It’s more annoying than ‘Mambo No. 5’ and ‘Who Let the Dogs Out.’ It’s even more annoying, dare I say it to anyone with a daughter, granddaughter, niece, or friend who has a daughter out there, than Queen Elsa belting out ‘Let it Go.’
But, thanks to Cornwall Cassie and a simple text sent back in February, I have a new respect for Cotton-Eyed Joe. I still cringe when I hear it, but at least now I respect it.
The Diva and I met Cornwall Cassie and Yves the Mountie on a cruise in the Caribbean during the Andrew Hammond Hamburglar streak. The Diva spotted Yves the Mountie as we were getting ready to de-shippify back to land. Yves the Mountie caught our attention because he had an Ottawa Senators t-shirt on.
So, a few months ago, I got a text from Cornwall Cassie. She and Yves the Mountie were sitting in their season ticket seats in the 300-level at a Senators game. The Sens were down by a goal.
“They need Cotton-Eyed Joe,” she texted.
I think I responded with “WTF?” Why on earth would anyone want to hear Cotton-Eyed Joe? Especially on purpose.
About 10 minutes later, late in the third period, it happened.
The DJ played Cotton-Eyed Joe. Moments later, the Senators scored the tying goal. They won the game in overtime.
“See,” texted Cornwall Cassie. “It’s our rally song. Everyone who sits around us hates that song, but I keep telling them it’s our rally song.”
I didn’t believe it, but I started to pay attention. It would happen again. And again.
In the playoffs, the success rate of the Senators after Cotton-Eyed Joe has been surreal.
Against the Boston Bruins, Cotton-Eyed Joe sparked a third period rally which led to Dion Phaneuf’s overtime winner.
In Game 1 against the Rangers, Cotton-Eyed Joe led to an Erik Karlsson winning goal late in the third period. Two days later, with the Sens down 5-3, Cotton-Eyed Joe inspired two quick goals by Jean-Gabriel Pageau late in the third period. Pageau won the game as he scored his fourth of the game in double overtime.
It’s uncanny.
The song itself has taken many shapes and forms through the generations. It is originally a folk song from the early-1800s, sung by slaves in the cotton fields of Texas. Some reports even claim it is a song about an STD. How else could the lyrics be explained? “If it hadn’t been for Cotton-Eyed Joe, I’d been married a long time ago…” I highly doubt that syphilis inspired a folk song. A more reasonable explanation of Cotton-Eyed Joe is that the singer’s love ran off with a guy named Cotton-Eyed Joe to Tennessee.
The song was referenced in Mark Twain’s 1884 book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers recorded the song in 1929. Adolph Hoffner and His San Antonians recorded the song in 1941 and made it popular across America. A few years later, it would become a staple for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Alabama again popularized the song in the 1980s.
In 1992, Ricky Skaggs did a Grammy Award-winning version of the song with an Irish band, the Chieftans. That version was closest to the one that we hear in arenas and at parties and weddings. It was recorded by Rednex, a Swedish band, as a dance mix in 2002.
Yes. Swedish.
Just like Erik Karlsson.
Just like Daniel Alfredsson.
Saturday, as the Sens trailed 4-3 in the third period, I got a text from Cornwall Cassie.
“We’ve got this one, right?”
“It depends when they play Cotton-Eyed Joe,” I replied.
With a few minutes left in the game, the song came on. With just over a minute left to play and Craig Anderson out of his net – to go to the bench, not to mishandle the puck – extra attacker Derick Brassard scored the tying goal to force overtime. Kyle Turris of the Sens netted the winner.
The barn erupted in celebration.
Another miracle comeback and win for the Senators.
And somewhere in Sweden, the Rednex are smiling.
I can’t wait to hear that song again.
I might even get up and do that stupid line dance.
But only if the Diva is not looking.

Jeff Morris is the editor and publisher at the Morris Newspaper Group in suburban and rural Ottawa. This column appeared in the Manotick Messenger, Prescott Journal, Winchester Press and Barrhaven Independent.

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