Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rise and Shine

Good article in today’s WSJ on The NHL's Unsung Star: The Anthem Singer:

In other sports, the singing of the national anthem is a formality. Fans stand and remove their caps. Then they sit and the game begins.

Hockey is different. In the NHL, 26 of the 30 teams employ regular anthem singers who give emotional performances night after night. Many are celebrities with cultlike followings.

Minnesota Wild anthem singer James Bohn says his status has helped him escape speeding tickets. When 33-year veteran New York Rangers singer John Amirante takes a night off, the fans chant, "We want John!" Singing the anthem for the Detroit Red Wings since 1990 has won Karen Newman stints as a backup singer for Michiganders Kid Rock and Bob Seger.

The Washington Capitals jokingly placed singer Bob McDonald on the injured-reserve list one season when his duties as an Army sergeant drew him away. In Philadelphia, before Lauren Hart begins to sing, fans shout, "I love you, Lauren!"

In addition to their familiarity, another reason NHL anthem singers are popular is their adherence to tradition:

The flamboyant national anthems sometimes heard at basketball and football games don't go over well in the NHL. In hockey, anthem singers perform the tune as written, note for note. Loud is good. Pop-inspired flash isn't.

"I don't want people to say, 'Wasn't that a lovely rendition of our anthem?'" Bohn, the Minnesota Wild singer, said. "I'd rather have them say, 'Yeah, let's play some hockey!"

Hart got the same message from her broadcaster father, Gene Hart, moments before singing her first anthem for the Flyers as a teenager: "Keep it straight … just sing the song," the Hall of Fame broadcaster told his daughter.

"I don't like it when they embellish," said right winger Jamal Mayers, who recently retired from the league after 15 years. "I see that all the time in football and basketball where they do their own little riffs and I'm like, you can audition for 'The Voice' another time; this is the national anthem."

Exactly. And there’s nothing better to get you pumped up for a hockey game than a classic rendering of said anthem (even better when you get both the Canadian and American versions). Especially if said game is a Stanley Cup playoff contest.

The quest to hoist the hallowed Cup this year starts tonight which makes this a wonderful time of year (even if it is snowing in mid-April). To make your NHL playoff experience even better (yes, it is possible) you can join the Fraters league in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket Challenge.

All you have to do is pick winners in round one, round two, the conference finals, and the Stanley Cup finals. Easy, right? You can’t win if you don’t play so get your picks in today before the puck drops tonight.


This classic, cinematic portrayal best dramatizes the solemn, patriotic devotion by hockey enthusiasts for our national anthem: