Commentary

"Chelsea Dagger" an unlikely theme

Updated: May 28, 2010, 12:35 AM ET
By Alex Ruppenthal | ESPNChicago.com

Barring a sudden scoring drought, Jonathan Toews or one of his Blackhawks teammates will slide the puck into the goal on the United Center ice during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night. The red light will illuminate. A horn will sound three times. Then, Jon Fratelli will lead 22,000-plus fans in an anthem that is currently stuck inside the heads of Blackhawks fans.

Fratelli envisioned "Chelsea Dagger" as "a rock 'n' roll gig in an old speakeasy or something like that." Not a song that has become a fixture in stadiums and arenas worldwide.

[+] EnlargeJon Fratelli
Simone Joyner/Getty ImagesThe Fratellis' "Chelsea Dagger" has also been played at soccer matches.

"I still don't really understand why," said Fratelli, the lead singer and guitarist of the Scottish rock band The Fratellis, which plays "Dagger."

As the Blackhawks have advanced through the playoffs, all the way to their first Stanley Cup finals since 1992, the song has become nearly as identifiable with the Hawks as the feathered Indian head on their jerseys.

At the United Center, the song's chorus is cued for each Hawks goal and also plays immediately following a win. A black-and-white car straight out of the movie "Blues Brothers" patrols the city blasting the song from a gigantic speaker roped to its roof. TV and radio stations in town have been using it in promos and openings for Blackhawks coverage.

But its writer has never even been to an American sporting event, let alone a hockey game.

"It doesn't look like a sport for wimps, does it?" Fratelli said Wednesday in a phone interview from Glasgow, Scotland, where he lives.

"Dagger," which reached No. 5 in the U.K. music charts, caught on in European soccer stadiums before crossing the Atlantic and electrifying the revived Madhouse on Madison in Chicago.

"There was a point quite a lot of [soccer] teams were using it, and then they all realized they were being quite unoriginal," said Fratelli, whose birth name is John Lawler.

After recording the song and listening to it, he didn't think it would become the most popular song on the band's debut album, "Costello Music," released in 2006.

"I do remember thinking I had stolen it from something," he said. "Sometimes a melody comes to me and it's so easy, you haven't had to work hard for it, in such a way that you must have gotten it somewhere … I still haven't found where it's come from yet, so I'm kind of assuming that it came from thin air. I'll keep saying that until somebody comes and tries to claim some of it."

He doesn't recall being contacted by the Blackhawks or other teams for permission to play the song -- he doesn't think teams need it -- though he remembers the Blackhawks asking if he and his band would come to Chicago and perform had the team made the finals last season.

He said he wouldn't say 'no' if the Blackhawks asked him to lead the crowd in a rendition of the song at a championship celebration, as Journey did for the White Sox with "Don't Stop Believin'" after the 2005 World Series.

"Yeah, I would do that," he said. "That would be a bit fun, actually."

Fratelli has already had memorable experiences in Chicago. He said the city "seemed like a quieter, cleaner version of New York, but just as interesting," proving he can win over Chicagoans even without a catchy song. He loved playing at Chicago's House of Blues. He once bought two guitars at a Lincoln Park music shop, then received a ride back to his hotel from the shop's owner so he didn't have to take a taxi.

"That's never happened anywhere else," he said.

The favor left an impression on Fratelli. No doubt he's returned it, if unintentionally.

Fratelli said he's honored by the attention the song has received, but, still, he doesn't understand why sports teams and fans worship it.

"It's all quite odd because it doesn't feel any different than any other song I've ever written," he said.

It was surreal the first time Fratelli was in a stadium when the song played, which happened when he watched his beloved Celtic FC soccer club in Glasgow.

"It was 2007, and we were playing AC Milan, and I think at that point Milan was the European champions," he said. "And we beat them 2-1 at Celtic Park in Glasgow. I think it was the last minute, we got the winner in the last minute … There's nothing like that roller coaster and then we scrape a goal in the last minute and 60,000 people in the rain are dancing and singing to your song whilst you're there.

"As moments go, that was pretty sweet."

For Blackhawks fans, so would screaming Fratelli's song after the team's first Stanley Cup since 1961.

"Given they're using that song, I do hope you win the playoffs," Fratelli said, laughing. "I've got to say that. They've obviously got good taste."

Alex Ruppenthal is an intern for ESPNChicago.com

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