Apr 29, 2008

Kate Smith sings the anthem again in Philadelphia

From the National Post (as seen on KuklasKorner) ... the spirit of Kate Smith fills Wachovia Centre again this year in the playoffs.
More than 20 years after her death, the Philadelphia Flyers continue to channel the spirit of singer Kate Smith.

Born in 1907, Smith was a famous broadway, stage and radio singer whose name became synonymous with the song God Bless America after she sung it to glowing reviews on Armistice Day in 1938.

Even the song’s composer considered it sappy but in the hands of Smith, a big lady with a bigger voice, the song stirred patriotic feelings at a time when many Americans wanted nothing to do with the simmering conflict in Europe.

Years later, Flyers president Lou Schienfield hoped to tap into these patriotic feelings when he ordered Smith’s rendition of the song to be played prior to a Flyers game on Dec. 11, 1969, in lieu of The Star Spangled Banner.

The switch angered some but the Flyers beat Toronto 6-3 that night, and the Flyers soon developed a penchant for winning on nights when Smith’s song was played.

According to the fan Web site www.flyershistory.com, Philadelphia went 19-1-1 over the next three years when Smith’s song was played and 31-38-28 when it was left on the record shelf.

Smith’s first of four live performances at Flyers games did not happen until the home-opener of the 1973-74 season, a Stanley Cup year for the Flyers.

Click here to see a youtube video of Smith’s performance prior to the Flyers Stanley Cup-clinching victory over the Bruins on May 19, 1974.

The team turned to Smith again the following season, when she sang prior to a Game 7 semi-final win over the Islanders en route to Philadelphia’s second straight Stanley Cup.

Smith’s last live performance at a Flyers game was on May 16, 1976, a 5-3 loss to the Canadiens in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The win completed a 4-0 sweep of the Flyers and started a run of four straight Cup wins for the Canadiens.

The Flyers erected a statue outside the Spectrum in tribute to Smith in 1987 — a year after her death — in honour of her role as the team’s eternal good luck charm.

Singer Lauren Hart sang God Bless America at the Wachovia Center prior to Monday’s Game 3 of the East semi-final, but it was accompanied by film of Smith’s performances from the Flyers' Stanley Cup years.

The Flyers beat Montreal 3-2 on Monday to take a 2-1 series lead, proving perhaps that Smith’s song has not lost its magic when it comes to spurring on the Broad Street Bullies.

Check out some Lauren Hart & Kate Smith duet videos here.

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