PHILADELPHIA - The Flyers hit the hat trick of patriotism for their Monday night playoff game: "God Bless America," a tribute to the troops, and almost 20,000 fans chanting "U-S-A!"
Flyers fans heard the usual stirring rendition of "God Bless America," live by Lauren Hart and on video by the late Kate Smith, before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Boston Bruins.
The song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since Smith began singing it in the mid 1970s. Hart started the song, then looked up to the big screen and passed it off to Smith before Game 2. They finished in a split-screen duet.
Fans chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!" after lineups were introduced, and again after the song was finished, a day after Osama bin Laden was killed.
"It's so unique to our team, for any sport," Hart said, "to have something like this."
The Flyers asked that fans pause to salute the men and women of the military who serve the United States at home and abroad. Members of local Philadelphia police and fire departments joined the colour guard to present the American flag.
The Flyers and Bruins banged sticks on the ice and applauded early in the first period during a video tribute to police, firefighters and the armed forces set to Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be An American." The officials also clapped.
Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sings the national anthem before just about every home game and sings "God Bless America" in the playoffs.
"I'm excited to take a small part in what's going to be a really patriotic moment, a really meaningful moment for so many family and fans and servicemen who are going to be here tonight," Hart said.
The Flyers first started playing a recording of Smith's version in 1969, usually before big games. Her first live performance was the home opener of the 1973-74 season.
Smith sang it on May 13, 1975 when the Flyers beat the Islanders in Game 7 of the Cup semifinals, the last year Philadelphia won hockey's most prestigious trophy. She died in 1986.
Smith had a statue dedicated in her honour outside the Flyers' former home, the since-demolished Spectrum. The statue is in storage and the plan is to incorporate it into the entertainment complex being built on the site of the Spectrum.
"People are waiting for that Cup again," Hart said. "She symbolizes that Cup. When you see her, you have all the hope that you're going to do it again. That was the Flyers' magic moment. Some day soon, it's going to be our magic moment again."
Gene Hart was best known for his call of the Flyers' Stanley Cup-winning 1-0 victory over the Bruins on May 19, 1974, at the Spectrum. "The Flyers win the Stanley Cup! The Flyers win the Stanley Cup!" he exclaimed, over and over.
Fans at the Mets-Phillies game -- across the street at Citizens Bank Park -- began chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as the buzz of bin Laden's death spread through the stadium on Sunday night.
People could be spotted all over the ballpark checking their phones as news that the United States had killed the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks was breaking.
A day later, in the same sports complex, the patriotism still flowed.