Fans in Philly roar approval of 'God Bless America'
Mike G. Morreale
PHILADELPHIA -- An incredible display of patriotism and American pride all but blew the roof off Wells Fargo Center on Monday night prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.
A crowd of well over 19,500 stood and applauded for over 10 minutes before, during and well after singer Lauren Hart belted yet another stirring rendition of Philadelphia's unofficial anthem "God Bless America" with Kate Smith assisting her on the center-ice scoreboard.
Less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan on Sunday, hockey fans united in Philadelphia to salute those men and women of the armed forces for their bravery, courage and sacrifice.
Members of the Philadelphia police and fire departments, along with the Color Guard of the United States Marines joined Hart on the red carpet that led out of the Zamboni entrance to the ice area in an inspiring scene.
On Sunday night, fans broke out into spontaneous cheers of "U-S-A, U-S-A" as the news of bin Laden's death spread throughout Citizens Bank Park during a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.
On Monday, fans at the Wells Fargo Center were given their opportunity and were heard loud and clear.
Chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" rang out prior to and following Hart's aria. Fans, young and old, waved American flags and stood in appreciation, stamping their feet and yelling their approval. The roar got even louder after American-born James van Riemsdyk scored the first of his two first-period goals just 29 seconds into the contest. Then, with 13:10 remaining, the Flyers saluted the armed forces with a touching video of those service men and women overseas that was accompanied by Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."
During the presentation, fans stood once again and began chanting, "U-S-A, U-S-A."
"Pregame we're all on the same team," Hart told NHL Network's "On the Fly" afterward. "It was really something special."
She added: "There was just a different energy. I had a moment of time to reflect, while Kate Smith's part was rolling, where I could look at the servicemen out there with me. It was unique, it wasn't like any night I've been down there, although I was here when Sept. 11 happened and not long after that morning. Today was a more positive note, it was coming from a place of pride rather than a place of sadness."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale