The Penguins admitted that they struggled to get used to their brand-new arena at the beginning of the season.
After all, hockey players are a superstitious bunch, and they had to nail down new game-day routines and get situated in their new surroundings.
So naturally, the Penguins had some nerves and apprehension entering Game 1 of their first-round series with Tampa Bay at CONSOL Energy Center on April 13, wondering what the atmosphere would be like inside their new barn for its first-ever playoff game.
But any lingering anxieties were dispelled the second Sgt. Bob Timney held his microphone to the crowd – 18,390 strong – during the national anthem and encouraged them to sing along.
The fans responded by thundering out the lyrics in a goosebump-inducing rendition, and the rest is history.
“After I sang a verse or two, I raised my left hand to try to encourage them to sing along,” Timney said. “They went from a 2 to a 4.5. A total bump up. At that point, I’m like ‘Wow, they can do it.’
“So we got to ‘And the rocket’s red glare,’ and I held (the microphone) out. And let me tell you, they went from a 4.5 to an 8.5 just in volume. They just kicked it in. It took everything I had to concentrate on maintain composure, enjoying it, and yet keeping control of the tempo and the whole thing to bring it all back together again.”WATCH: GAME 1 NATIONAL ANTHEM
Timney has, by his own count, sang the national anthem “over one hundred times” for his son’s football and hockey games, events at Penn State University, the Pirates and their minor-league affiliates, and for Pittsburgh’s Feb. 21 tilt with Washington – the only other time he sang for the Penguins prior to April 13.
However, before that night, he had never once tried getting the crowd involved like he did for Game 1.
But Timney – a Beaver County native that can name the Pirates’ entire starting lineup when they won the World Series in 1971 – wanted to make the night special for the fans.
“I think it’s a song the crowd should be singing along with,” he said of his decision to try to get the crowd involved. “That’s why I sing it so straightforward. … It’s just something where you want to get the crowd all fired up.”
And while Timney did just that, he gives Penguins fans all of the credit for their emphatic response.
“When I was out there, if they had not kicked it from a 2 to a 4.5 when I raised my arm, I may not have had the courage to put the microphone out because I don’t want to look like an idiot if no one is singing along,” he said. “That was between the fans and me, it was just phenomenal. It was just this link that we just knew what we were doing.”
Timney returned to sing the anthem for Game 2, and was amazed by the way Penguins fans managed to come out with an even more impressive response.
“On Feb. 21 and Game 1, when they introduced Sgt. Bob Timney, I got polite applause,” he said. “On (April 15), the place erupted. It took everything I had to maintain composure. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really happening.’ I didn't have to use my hand to get them to sing. They started out at 3.5, which was really cool. When I held the mic out sooner and held it out longer, they were louder.”WATCH: GAME 2 NATIONAL ANTHEM
Timney will be back to perform the anthem for Saturday’s Game 5, and he can’t wait to see what the crowd’s response is like. He hopes it's a tradition Penguins fans carry on throughout the rest of playoffs and on to the next season.
“I’m really looking forward to (Saturday) and having it be just as loud as before, or louder,” he said. "I’m hoping that this is even bigger than me. ... I hope it’s something that continues on."