Sitting at the Blackhawks game a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that the United Center or “Madhouse on Madison” has become – over the last few years – not only one of the best arenas atmosphere-wise in the NHL, but also in all of sports as well.
This fact is especially evident when it comes to the rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” delivered by soloist Jim Cornelison and accompanied by the cheers of a sell-out crowd in excess of 20,000 fans before each Blackhawks home game.
This tradition of cheering the anthem before each game has quickly become one of the coolest things in all of sports, and something that one needs to really experience in person in order to fully appreciate.
It’s a tradition that began at the old Chicago Stadium back during the 1985 Conference Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, the raucous applause and cheering that occurred during the anthem before each game created a tradition that has certainly stuck.
This fact was never more evident than in the moments before the 1991 NHL All-Star Game at Chicago Stadium, played just days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the beginning of the Gulf War. Fans were so overcome with patriotism, that cheers of USA almost drowned out Wayne Messmer’s stirring rendition, and fans around the stadium also held up numerous American flags and signs in support of the troops.
This made for an incredible atmosphere charged with pride and patriotism desperately needed by the country during this controversial time, and also cemented that this Chicago tradition was here to stay.
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This tradition of cheering during the anthem has been called disrespectful by some, but as someone who has been fortunate enough to have been present for numerous renditions of the anthem over the years, including during the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field which brought the Chicago tradition to millions of viewers on the NHL’s biggest stage, I can tell you that it is anything but.
The energy and patriotism exhibited by Blackhawks fans on a nightly basis is truly something special to see these days, and serves to me as a daily reminder of why I’m not only proud to be a Chicago Blackhawks fan, but also of why I’m so proud to be an American.
During the singing of the National Anthem before every Blackhawks game, there is also an active-duty member as well as veteran of the Armed Forces present on the ice. Additionally, whenever a member of the military is shown on the jumbo-tron during the game, they are immediately met with an arena-wide standing ovation.
It seems that the tradition of the Blackhawks anthem has taken on a life of its own over the years, with singer Jim Cornelison even lending his voice to the singing of the anthem before the 2010 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
The anthem is also shown regularly on television before each Blackhawks home game broadcasted on CSN Chicago. I believe that cheering during the National Anthem allows fans to feel like they are apart of the song, rather than just observers, which is something that they cannot experience at any other sporting event these days.
The Blackhawks anthem has truly become an incredible, cannot-miss event in itself even before the hockey game even begins. This Blackhawks tradition of cheering the anthem is truly a thing of beauty, and is something that I hope everyone has the chance to experience first-hand.