The Edmonton Oilers are hoping to rally with their “La Bamba” mojo when they return to Rogers Place for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; TNT , CBC, SN, VATS).
Ritchie Valens’ 1958 hit was adopted by the Oilers as their victory song this season, but it has yet to play during this best-of-7 series, which the Avalanche lead 2-0 after their 4-0 win in Game 2 on Thursday.
“La Bamba” actually played after winning in the Edmonton locker room for a few seasons as a tribute to Joey Moss, the Oilers’ longtime locker room attendant. It was his favorite song, and when Moss, who was born with Down syndrome, died at age 57 on October 26, 2020, Edmonton decided to keep playing music, expand it and integrate the song at the Rogers Place experience after each win. .
“I think it’s pretty fitting with Joe and his legacy here in Edmonton,” Oilers captain said Connor McDavid said on October 14, “and obviously it’s a song that’s close to our hearts and it’s something that means a lot to us.
“Every time we win… nobody’s liked a win better than Joey Moss, so it’s a nice little tribute for him.”
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Barrie Stafford, the Oilers’ equipment manager for 28 seasons (1982-2010) and their special projects director for 10 more, said the ties between Moss, the song and the Oilers go back many years.
“We were good friends for many years,” Stafford said. “I had been hanging out with Joey for a long time, long before he was the most famous person in Edmonton and I didn’t even know it. All of us who worked for the Oilers were friends of the Moss family. Joey has always had a love for music and ‘La Bamba’ was part of his repertoire.
“Getting him into the locker room… I think it’s only been in the locker room regularly for the past few years. After Joey passed away, they kept rolling. But it’s always been a big part of his life and he was a real music lover.”
Stafford said the entire Moss family had extensive musical experience, often touring northern Alberta by bus when Joey was a boy. Each of his siblings sang and danced, so Joey’s musical training is a credit to his family.
“He had a love for music ever since I knew him,” Stafford said. “Anything to do with James Bond, he loved. He listened to those themes all the time. Another of his favorites was ‘Donna’ (another Valens song). Lots of Neil Diamond songs too. But his song All-time favorite to sing and dance, especially in a crowd, was “La Bamba.” He loved to perform.
“So it’s something that just evolved over time, and the current team incorporated that song every time they won, when Joey was still alive.”
The “La Bamba” theme has quickly become popular among Edmonton fans, including Ben Stelter, a 6-year-old child undergoing treatment for glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.
Several times during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Mike Stelter, Ben’s father, uploaded a new video of Ben bellowing, “Play La Bamba, baby,” to his Twitter feed after an Oilers win.
Stelter’s cry for “La Bamba” caught on among Edmonton fans.
“In public or when we go to the games, people run around and say, ‘Hey Ben, play La Bamba, baby,'” Mike Stelter said. “They often try to get him to say that, but he usually doesn’t say it until after the Oilers win. But he laughs every time, everywhere we go and someone asks him to say it.”
Mike says he and Ben will be attending Game 3, hoping to hear this music playing, and that his son is very attached to this new Edmonton tradition.
“He knows it’s the Oilers’ victory song and he knows it was Joey Moss’ favorite song and that’s why they do it,” Mike said. “And he knows that after every win, they play it at Rogers Place and they play it in the locker room too.
“He loves it all.”