When it comes to the National Anthem, I have always had a soft spot for the performance that Whitney Houston gave at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. No matter how many times I see it, it works to get me emotional. In the world of sports, hockey probably has the most passionate anthem singers and while watching the playoffs each year, I’m always happy to see NBC show various performances. Though I haven’t heard everybody in the league, there’s a good chance I’ve seen the most consistent performers. Below are some of my favorites. Not on the list: the ridiculous Rene Rancourt of the Boston Bruins. He gets so much play for his gold-tinged outfits and post-anthem fist pumps, but I find him to be completely overrated.
1) Sonya Bryson – Tampa Bay Lightning
Not one of the bigger or most known names on this list, but she can bring it. Always sings a wonderful rendition of the Anthem and doesn’t get cute with it or change any of the notes like so many annoyingly do. Powerful voice.
2) Jim Cornelison – Chicago Blackhawks
Part of the most unique anthem in sports, Blackhawk fans stand and cheer during the Anthem, so it wouldn’t feel right hearing that operatic voice of Cornelison without the roar of the crowd in the background. He has a commanding presence and that trademark, emphatic gesture during “flag was still there” is goosebump-inducing.
3) Doug Allen – Buffalo Sabres
Not just a homer pick. Doug has such a nice, clean rendition of the Anthem and he fits the part too, always looking sharp in his tux. I like the couple minor tweaks in his voice he makes during the last few lines and his signature point at the end during ” home of the brave” is great.
4) Lauren Hart/Kate Smith – Philadelphia Flyers
Another unique tradition come playoff-time is the duet of Lauren Hart and Kate Smith singing not the Star-Spangled Banner, but God Bless America. Lauren starts it out and then when Kate comes up on the scoreboard belting out “From the mountain”, the crowd goes wild. They both come together at the end of the song to finish as a duet thanks to the wonders of technology and Lauren’s remarkable synchronization.
5) Mark Donnelly – Vancouver Canucks
I may be an American, but I know all the words to O Canada as well. Such an awesome anthem with a country that takes great pride in it. There are several great anthem singers in the Great White North, but Mark Donnelly is one of the best.
Pia Toscano – Los Angeles Kings…Beautiful voice, more of a modern approach, but does not go too crazy. Very well done
John Amirante – New York Rangers…Recently retired, otherwise he would be in the Top 5. Had the fortune of hearing him live and it was wonderful
Lyndon Slewidge – Ottawa Senators…An operatic voice in Canada’s capital dressed in full garb.
Ginette Reno – Montreal Canadiens…Demands attention as an all-around French Canadian star. Infrequent singer at the Bell Centre, but it’s a big moment when she is there