Hart stirs Flyers’ crowd with ‘God Bless America’

The Flyers hit the hat trick of patriotism for their Monday

night playoff game: ”God Bless America,” a tribute to the troops,

and almost 20,000 fans chanting ”U-S-A!”

Flyers fans heard the usual stirring rendition of ”God Bless

America,” live by Lauren Hart and on video by the late Kate Smith,

before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Boston

Bruins.

The song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since Smith

began singing it in the mid 1970s. Hart started the song, then

looked up to the big screen and passed it off to Smith before Game

2. They finished in a split-screen duet.

Fans chanted ”U-S-A! U-S-A!” after lineups were introduced,

and again after the song was finished, a day after Osama bin Laden

was killed.

”It’s so unique to our team, for any sport,” Hart said, ”to

have something like this.”

The Flyers asked that fans pause to salute the men and women of

the military who serve the United States at home and abroad.

Members of local Philadelphia police and fire departments joined

the color guard to present the American flag.

The Flyers and Bruins banged sticks on the ice and applauded

early in the first period during a video tribute to police,

firefighters and the armed forces set to Lee Greenwood’s ”Proud to

Be An American.” The officials also clapped.

Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene

Hart, sings the national anthem before just about every home game

and sings ”God Bless America” in the playoffs.

”I’m excited to take a small part in what’s going to be a

really patriotic moment, a really meaningful moment for so many

family and fans and servicemen who are going to be here tonight,”

Hart said.

The Flyers first started playing a recording of Smith’s version

in 1969, usually before big games. Her first live performance was

the home opener of the 1973-74 season.

Smith sang it on May 13, 1975 when the Flyers beat the Islanders

in Game 7 of the Cup semifinals, the last year Philadelphia won

hockey’s most prestigious trophy. She died in 1986.

Smith had a statue dedicated in her honor outside the Flyers’

former home, the since-demolished Spectrum. The statue is in

storage and the plan is to incorporate it into the entertainment

complex being built on the site of the Spectrum.

”People are waiting for that Cup again,” Hart said. ”She

symbolizes that Cup. When you see her, you have all the hope that

you’re going to do it again. That was the Flyers’ magic moment.

Some day soon, it’s going to be our magic moment again.”

Gene Hart was best known for his call of the Flyers’ Stanley

Cup-winning 1-0 victory over the Bruins on May 19, 1974, at the

Spectrum. ”The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the

Stanley Cup!” he exclaimed, over and over.

Fans at the Mets-Phillies game – across the street at Citizens

Bank Park – began chanting ”U-S-A! U-S-A!” as the buzz of bin

Laden’s death spread through the stadium on Sunday night.

People could be spotted all over the ballpark checking their

phones as news that the United States had killed the mastermind

behind the Sept. 11 attacks was breaking.

A day later, in the same sports complex, the patriotism still

flowed.