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Hart ready to get Flyers fans fired up with anthem

by Mike G. Morreale
PHILADELPHIA  -- There's no doubt Lauren Hart will be emotionally charged when she walks out onto the carpet to perform her spine-tingling version of "God Bless America" prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday before a sold-out Wachovia Center (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS).

It was almost 38 years ago when Kate Smith first strolled out to center ice at the old Spectrum to perform her live version of "God Bless America," sending thousands of Flyers fans into an absolute tizzy. Her aria not only instilled a sense of pride in all Philadelphia hockey fans but became the unofficial anthem of the arena itself. That was Oct. 11, 1973 -- a 2-0 victory against goalie Doug Favell and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season-opener.

Hart, the daughter of legendary Flyers' broadcaster and Hall of Famer, Gene Hart, has since become the soul of a city that has certainly stood by its warrior mentality. Heck, she'll be donning a 1974 Stanley Cup champion Flyers' T-shirt and her customary leather jacket as she accompanies a video of Smith for "God Bless America" on Wednesday.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette could hardly control himself when asked if he was looking forward to a little emotional lift from the Flyers' anthem.

"I'm fired up -- I'll be fired up all day," Laviolette said. "I'll be fired up when "God Bless America" goes off (Wednesday). They do a great job with it, and the fans get into it. It should be a great atmosphere for hockey."

Much like the team she sings for, Hart has persevered despite the odds she's faced. When Gene Hart died in 1999, Lauren promised to sing at every home game in his honor and she's missed just five since making that pledge. There were three instances when she and her husband of five years, Todd Carmichael, adopted three daughters from Ethiopia and then two more during her bout with non-Hodgkin lymphoma -- a cancer that has been in remission for 10 years now.

"Flyers fans love to see players that are warriors and they love to be the underdog and still win," Hart told "I think when people saw me come out there every night, they felt that way. They felt that no matter what, I was a warrior and was coming out every night, good or bad. I think that quality in the players throughout the years has been what people say makes a player a true Flyer, like the Rod Brind'Amours', Bobby Clarkes' and Mike Richards'. There's a character that surrounds the Flyers; it's like anything is possible, just when you think you're down, you can rally back."

The game will mark a special occasion for Hart as it'll be the first time she sings prior to the opening faceoff of a Cup Final. The closest she came was in 2000 when the Flyers lost a seven-game series to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

"Every night that I go out and sing, I'm just as excited as I was the last time," she said. "I get so fired up for it, I guess because I love the game so much. I've been through so much in the time that I've done it over the last decade of my life and (Wachovia) has been my safe harbor as a place where I have family and feel really at home. For me walking out on the ice gives me chills. Every night I want to go out and want to be better than the last night."

Every Flyers' player, whether or not they're American, appreciate the way Hart fires up the crowd.

"It's special," said Flyers forward Ian Laperriere. "My mom is going to be attending her first playoff game (Wednesday) and I told her, make sure you pay attention because the anthem is very special in Philly. It's a special breed of people here in Philly and they are right behind their team and they'll let you know right from when the anthem starts."

Gene Hart, incidentally, announced his first Flyers game on Nov. 4, 1967 when his daughter was only six months old.

"The greatest memory I have of my dad is centered around an ice rink," Hart said. "I knew when he was watching me. I'd look up at the press box each night and while I couldn't quite see him, I kind of knew where he was. After he was gone, that first season, I just wanted to be there because dad was always there. He was so committed and so loyal and that's why I made that promise to sing the anthem from that point on."

The Flyers are 9-1-0 over the last 10 games that Hart and Smith have blown the roof off with their collaborative effort. Philadelphia is 86-22-4 all-time when Kate Smith is included in the singing of "God Bless America."

"I never saw (Kate Smith) sing and never met her," Hart said. "I only heard stories through my dad. He loved to tell stories of Kate Smith. It was such an unlikely pairing between the Flyers and her and he loved that story. They were two completely kind of polar opposites, but they made that magic."

It's a magic that Lauren Hart will undoubtedly recreate once again prior to puck drop for Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I know that no matter what happens during the course of that game, for that minute-and-a-half that I sing prior to the game, everything is just right," she said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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