Rob Bellamy’s music videos on YouTube have drawn as many hits as the footage from some of his hockey fights.
A grainy video of Bellamy dropping the gloves and squaring up with former Lowell defenseman Harry Young in 2008 has registered more than 3,400 hits. A black-and-white video of Bellamy singing an acoustic cover of the Eagles’ “Desperado” has gotten nearly 3,800 hits.
Bellamy knows that one entity is exclusive of how he currently makes a living. But in the days he spent honing the start of his career as a professional hockey player in the domestic minor leagues and then overseas, the former University of Maine player discovered and then refined his passion for music.
“I try not to look into it too much,” said Bellamy, who played at Maine from 2004 to 2008. “I know music is one of the most popular things on the planet, and there’s probably more interest in that … even though hockey fighting is very exciting for a lot of people. I want to enjoy it.”
Now, in search of his next opportunity to play professional hockey, Bellamy also attempts to take his first step as a recording artist. He spent the 2010-2011 season with the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in England, where he scored 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 games — and he found an outlet for his music.
At Maine, Bellamy was a fearless right wing known for his aggressive style of play. But away from Alfond Arena he listened to music and thought about how he would write a song about his own personal experiences. Sometimes he recorded videos of himself playing the guitar and posted them on YouTube — videos he later took down. He’d sing for his friends and family, who encouraged him to pursue music. “I didn’t take it serious, though,” Bellamy said. “I had a lot of work to do. But I kept practicing and practicing, and I started playing in front of more people. People kept saying the same thing, and I thought, ‘Maybe they’re right.’ “
He was from a family of talented athletes and musicians — his sister, Kacey, played for the 2010 U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team – but didn’t consider getting serious about music until his 22nd birthday, when he took the plunge. For a birthday present, Bellamy asked his parents for a guitar.
Billy Ryan, Bellamy’s roommate at Maine and teammate at Nottingham, remembers watching Bellamy go back to their apartment after practice and reach for a guitar. If Bellamy had a few minutes between classes and practice, he’d sit on the couch and continue to figure out scales. He’d sit in front of his computer and watch YouTube videos of John Mayer, Ray LaMontagne and Dave Matthews, hoping to emulate their style of music, influenced by folk, blues, rock and soul.
“He’s one of those kids, where something gets into his mind, he goes after it 100 percent,” Ryan said. “Once he picked up the guitar, he couldn’t put it down.”
Bellamy spent his first two pro seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers’ American Hockey League farm team (2008-2009 and 2009-2010). His contract was not renewed after the 2009-2010 season. He was cut after a tryout with the Worcester Sharks, signed with Elmira of the ECHL but opted to go to England. And he took his guitar.
Bellamy struck up a friendship with Kenny Clarke, Nottingham’s team photographer. Clarke offered to shoot footage of Bellamy singing a cover of LaMontagne’s 2004 hit “Trouble,” then singing his original song “Last Goodbye,” as he strolled through the woods of England.
Then, Bellamy began to consider performing live music. He admitted that he was nervous at his first performance, April 5 in Nottingham. But as an athlete, he turned to visualization. If he saw it in his mind, he could do it on stage. In front of more than 200 people, Bellamy performed 20 songs, covers of songs by Bon Jovi, Oasis and Pearl Jam, and songs he wrote himself. In between songs, he talked about his teammates and his musical inspirations, things that came naturally to him.
“It was a special moment to see that, and to see how comfortable he was,” Ryan said. “I started thinking, ‘If he takes this serious, he could be very successful.’ “
He returned to the U.S. this spring and visited his cousin, T-L Fielder, a freelance sports producer who lives in California. They shot and edited a video for “Let Yourself Be Free,” a song about listening to one’s heart and embracing personal freedom. As Bellamy strummed his guitar beneath the famed Venice Beach pier, Fiedler saw a different side of Bellamy, who was regarded by his extended family as the life of the party, the “hockey cousin.”
“He’s 100 percent into this,” Fiedler said. “And he’s got so much confidence and passion, and that desire to succeed. He’s determined to get there, even whatever or where ever ‘there’ ultimately is.”
This summer Bellamy will live in suburban Boston, where he is training and where he hopes to record and perform more music. Like other artists starting out, Bellamy is in search of outlets, of listeners and of someone to take a chance on him. It’s a grass-roots effort to get the word out. He also hopes to find another opportunity in pro hockey.
“Hockey’s my first passion,” Bellamy said. “Hockey’s been able to give me a lot, and give me time on the side for music, which is really exciting for me. I’ve started skating for the summer. But I’m not quite sure what I’ll do in the fall yet.”
Sometimes, all it takes is one hit.
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: