When news broke that the Capitals asked the US Army Chorus sing the national anthem, some wondered if it was potentially a cost-cutting move. In previous Winter Classics, famous, Grammy award-winning musicians have sung the Star Spangled Banner, including the Zac Brown Band last year and Patti LeBelle in 2012.
Instead, Caps anthem singers Master Sergeant Bob McDonald and Master Sergeant Caleb Green combined with Caps PA Announcer Wes Johnson to author one of the most beautiful pregame ceremonies and anthem singings I’ve ever seen. In fact, the whole thing was so dang perfect and well-done, I found myself overwhelmed. I sobbed by the end of it.
As Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Emrick tosses to Wes Johnson, he announces both teams. Johnson’s deep, powerful voice perfectly compliments an instrumental that sounds straight out of the Inception soundtrack. First the Blackhawks skate out from a replica Capitol Dome and down a patch of ice made to resemble the reflecting pool. Then Johnson bellows, “And now, please welcome your Washington Capitals!” Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin lead the team out.
The crowd erupts. I have feels. Lots and lots of feels.
As the Capitals finish making their way down the ice, Johnson tosses to the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, who play a intro to the Star Spangled Banner.
As they finish, a team of skaters, all from a local military hockey club, are cued to open a giant American flag. They do so within seconds. It feels like a giant exclamation point. The crowd erupts again.
Then the US Army Chorus begins singing. Caps anthem singers Bob McDonald and Caleb Green are beside each other, right in the middle of the chorus. Perfect. The singing is beautiful. It is exactly how the national anthem should be sung. Sorry, Aretha.
McDonald, an active duty soldier, has been singing at Capitals games since the 1992-93 season. Green, a solo vocalist with the U.S. Army band, has sung at dozens of Capitals games since he was stationed in D.C. in 1999. The Hampton, Va., native sang at President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.
When the chorus sings “And the rockets red glare,” Caps fans scream “RED!” – an homage to the team’s colors. Then the NHL shoots up red fireworks into the sky. The crowd roars again.
As the anthem comes to its hook, the crowd yells the loudest “O” I’ve ever heard (Orioles magic, feel it happen) and then two F-16’s, piloted by members of the Air National Guard’s 113th Wing based at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, fly over Nationals Park.
All of this honors the game and gives it an air of importance. It also made me swell up with pride for my country AND my area in which I grew up. Everyone in the NHL and the Capitals game-ops crew knocked this one out of the park. Huge props to you, Ted Leonsis.
Then there was another part of this that made me so damn emotional. Earlier in the year, Bob McDonald came to RMNB Pary 7: PARTYZORD to help give some badly needed star power to the event. He sung the national anthem beautifully there and I got to meet him for the first time. He helped us raise thousands of dollars to help Fort Dupont Ice Arena and inner–city youth play hockey. He’s just a good guy.
Then there’s Wes Johnson.
The dude that married me is doing the pre-game introductions. LOVE YOU @WesJohnsonVoice!!!!
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) January 1, 2015
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) January 1, 2015
Over the summer, Wes – oh, I’m sorry, the Universal Life Church’s Philosopher of Absolute Reality – was the officiant at my wedding.
All of this combined for me to be a very emotional moment. We are so lucky to be in the midst of such talented, gracious people. And on New Year’s Day 2015, their talent was on the forefront – just like our hockey team’s.
Way to go, guys.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.