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.
HOCKEY WEEKEND ACROSS AMERICA
NBC spotlights wide array on 'Hockey Day'
David Kalan - NHL.com Staff Writer
With six hours of broadcasting planned, NBC has will shine its spotlight on hockey at all levels during its Hockey Day in America coverage. READ MORE ›
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."
[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.
— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday