Turns out Ayla Brown is an ideal performer to help fill the "Hockey Weekend Across America" gap between Friday's nationwide callout to wear hockey jerseys to work and Sunday's unprecedented day of NHL games televised on NBC (a regional tripleheader starting at noon ET, followed by Pittsburgh at Chicago at 3:30 p.m. ET). Brown will sing the national anthem at the University of Maine at University of Massachusetts-Lowell NCAA game Saturday night, then debut some of her newest music during intermission.
Here's why Brown is so perfect for the Hockey USA celebration: She was one of 24 semifinalists on "American Idol" during 2005-06. Her inspiration as a singer started at roughly age 3 when she started belting out Disney movie tunes. She played four years of Division I basketball for Boston College after twice earning Massachusetts Player of the Year honors during her high school career.
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Let's see, what else? Oh, she moved to Nashville last month to pursue a career as a country singer, leaving her original pop music roots ("my mom always said I have a big voice that was good for country; I used to look at her like she had four eyes").
"Shania Twain is from Canada and Keith Urban in from Australia, so I think a girl from Massachusetts can be a country singer," Brown told NHL.com. "What I love about country is it is about the songs and the stories, it depends less on the show aspect or the dance movements."
There's more. Brown also happens to be the daughter of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the first Republican to be elected as U.S. Senator in that state since 1972. Her mother is long-time Boston television reporter Gail Huff -- and Ayla has followed suit by serving as a special correspondent for "The Early Show" on CBS.
Lots of American storylines in there. And as a fellow Boston College athlete she observed first-hand what she calls "the most intense team sport" of hockey.
"These guys start young, skating at age 3," said Brown. Hmm, sounds familiar.
"They eat, live and breathe hockey," said Brown, whose anthem performance and intermission set if part of CountryFest night at UMass Lowell. "I have a great respect for hockey players and am happy to be part of Hockey Weekend Across America."
There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.
— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp