10 of the very best national anthem singers in NHL history
Jeff Jimerson kicked off Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals with his usual rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” on Monday, and once the series makes its way to Nashville, any number of A-list country stars, including Carrie Underwood, may show up to perform the national anthem there — much to the dismay of the team’s regular pregame performer. In the NHL, the anthem, whether the U.S. version or “O Canada,” is met with a fervor not seen in many other sports, and over the years there have been many singers have become legends for their work. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable anthem singers, past and present, to ever make the ice their stage.
Lauren Hart (and Kate Smith)
Though the practice is common now, the tradition of regular pregame singers began with the late Smith in Philadelphia in 1969. According to the Wall Street Journal, many Flyers fans, displeased with U.S. involvement in Vietnam, refused to stand for the national anthem, so the team, instead, played a recording of Smith singing “God Bless America” before a game. Philadelphia won the subsequent contest, and soon after, Smith’s recording — and sometimes Smith, herself — became a fixture. And though Smith passed away in 1986, her legacy lives on in Philly, as she and current team anthem singer Lauren Hart often perform a sort of virtual duet of the tune before important Flyers games.
Ginette Reno (and Roger Doucet)
In recent years, Reno has emerged as something of a talisman for the Montreal Canadiens during the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, the Canadian recording artist’s powerful bilingual version of “O Canada” is, in many ways, a nod to the late Doucet, whose rendition at Habs games in the 1970s was said to have helped unify the country “at a time when separatists were advocating sovereignty for French-speaking Quebec,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The great Wayne Messmer set the standard in Chicago, but for the past decade, Cornelison has belted the anthem full-time, and is regarded to be one of the league’s best. In addition to his duties at Blackhawks games, the baritone Cornelison has performed “The Star Spangled Banner” before Chicago Bears games, and just this past weekend sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.
Known for his signature fist-pumps before he leaves the ice, Rancourt has been performing the national anthem at Boston Bruins games for more than 40 years. And though the topic of retirement has come up during recent seasons, the 77-year-old Rancourt is still an icon in Boston and around the NHL.
For nearly 25 years Lyndon Slewidge was the voice most synonymous with the Ottawa Senators, and with good reason, but in recent seasons, Brenden MacGowan — he of La Voix Junior fame — has emerged as Slewidge’s heir apparent. It’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to see MacGowan’s talents on display in the Stanley Cup Final, but one has to figure the 13-year-old will only get better with age and should have plenty more chances to perform in the future.
Earlier this postseason, Edmonton Oilers fans bailed out country singer Brett Kissel when his microphone failed him during the U.S. anthem, but for decades the gold standard in Alberta was Lorieau, who spent 30 years with the team before singing his final “O Canada” in Edmonton in 2011.
The Red Wings’ anthem singer for more than 25 years, Newman bid a bittersweet farewell to Joe Louis Arena earlier this spring and is something of a celebrity in the Motor City for her powerful renditions of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Frankly, you could put just about any Canadian anthem singer on this list, because the whole country does it right, but there are few who do the job better than Vancouver’s Mark Donnelly, who has not only lost 200 pounds in recent years, but also teams up with the Canucks faithful for one of the most stirring renditions of “O Canada” in all of hockey.
Though he’s no longer the Rangers’ primary anthem singer, the legendary Amirante spent 35 years serenading the Blueshirts faithful and is a superstar at Madison Square Garden. There isn’t a much rowdier anthem in sports than an Amirante performance at MSG, and as a result, the team still brings him back as a sort of good luck charm before key matchups, including Game 4 of the Rangers-Senators series earlier in the playoffs.
A regular at Washington Capitals games, Sergeant Major McDonald is best known, of course, for “The Star Spangled Banner,” but as he showed earlier this season, McDonald belts out a pretty great “O Canada,” as well. Plus, he makes house calls.