Photo of Chicago Blackhawks fans cheering at the United Center. 

Image Credit: Nicole Yeary (CC BY 2.0)

It's no secret that the Nashville Predators and their fans don't particularly like the Chicago Blackhawks organization. When playoff tickets went on sale for Game 1 of the divisional semifinals tonight in Nashville, no tickets were sold online, all tickets had to be purchased locally. The Predators organization also allowed their season ticket holders to purchase additional playoff tickets rather than issuing a limit. In years past, if you wanted tickets for a Blackhawks/Predators game at Bridgestone Arena, you had to also purchase tickets for a second Predators game later that season. Not only does the Predators organization try to find ways to hinder Blackhawks fans from invading Bridgestone Arena but they're also copying their traditions too. For Game 1 tonight in Nashville, Predators President Sean Henry asked the Nashville crowd to sing during the national anthem before the puck dropped. At the United Center in Chicago, Blackhawks fans are known to cheer loudly when the national anthem is performed by Jim Cornelison.  As Henry put it "it would be against God to cheer during the National Anthem while fans are singing it". 

First of all... Sean Henry... - SELL OUT YOUR ARENA! Either Nashville is too small of a sports market, you've priced your own fans out of attending games in person or have done a poor job at engaging them. Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens fans can show you how the whole sellout thing works. Sean Henry's statement also brought me to three questions. Why do Chicago Blackhawks fans cheer during the national anthem? How is it "disrespectful"? And how did this tradition start? 

Before we dive into this, let's go ahead and clear the elephant out of the room. Many NHL fans suggest the Chicago Blackhawks fan base has some of the biggest bandwagoners in professional sports. As they claim, Blackhawks fans were no where to be found prior to 2008. Is that true?

I'm also going to go ahead and give you exhibit A. Here is a Youtube video of Jim Cornelison performing "O Canada" and the "Star Spangled Banner" at the United Center before a Chicago Blackhawks game.  

According to an article on the Chicago Blackhawks website, here, the cheering during the national anthem first began at the old Chicago Stadium in 1985 when the Blackhawks hosted the Edmonton Oilers in the Campbell Conference Finals. The cheer was a way for the crowd to pump up the players who were down two games to zero to Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers. There you have it; the origin and reasoning behind this NHL tradition. 

Is cheering during the national anthem disrespectful? Here is how Title 36, Chapter 301 of the United States code prefers we act when the Star-Spangled Banner is being performed. 

(a) Designation. - The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem. (b) Conduct During Playing. - During a rendition of the national anthem - (1) when the flag is displayed - (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed. Source:


"Prefers" was the keyword in my last sentence. Cheering and clapping only suggests that your hand is not over your heart during the national anthem. The code says nothing about remaining silent during the national anthem nor does it suggest that cheering equates disrespect. As we saw in the 1991 NHL All Star Game in Chicago, the national anthem tradition doesn't just celebrate the Chicago Blackhawks. It certainly didn't aim to pump up this random group of NHL All-Stars either. Also important to note, as Jim Cornelison performs "O Canada" before Blackhawks games, there are neither any boos or cheers. Not until America's anthem does the insanity begin. Both of these examples show that this tradition has morphed into something patriotic.

While I've yet to visit the United Center for a Blackhawks game, it's definitely on my bucket list along with the Super Bowl, World Series, et al. It's that important to me. 


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