I cropped Brian Lee out of this photo. The Ottawa Senators players lineup on the blueline for the National Anthems before their home opener against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place on October 8, 2010 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
L is for Lyndon, as in Lyndon Slewidge, Ottawa's official anthem singer. Anthem singers are a consistent part of a sports fan's game experience. Sometimes they forget the words, sometimes they change the melody. By the time the last bars are sung, the good ones have raised the energy level in the building in time for puck drop. The truly great ones become synonymous with their teams.
Rene Rancourt has been singing the anthems for the Bruins since 1976 and has become so enmeshed in the fabric of Boston sports culture that he is mentioned by name in "Time to Go" by the Dropkick Murphys. Mark Donnelly's signature move is holding the microphone to the crowd so they can sing along; these renditions are so patriotic that the Vancouver faithful dubbed him "Mr. O Canada". Anyone watching at home knows it's playoff time when Lauren Hart teams up with Kate Smith to sing "God Bless America". The duet sends chills down your spine because the Flyers record with Smith (she died in 1986) or her recording is astonishing: 94 wins, 26 losses, and 4 ties (as of the end of last season). This total includes the Cup clinching games in 1974 and 1975. By the times these singers finish the last few bars, the arena is a madhouse, and the adrenaline of everyone is high.
Lyndon Slewidge is one of the truly great ones. A police officer since 1975, Lyndon began his policing and singing careers in Sault Ste. Marie where he sang the national anthem at Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds games. In 1992, Slewidge received an out-of-this-world offer: hometown star and astronaut Roberta Bondar asked Lyndon to record the American and Canadian national anthems so that she could play them on her NASA mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.
In 1992, our favourite bass-baritone moved to Ottawa and began singing at Sens games. A skilled vocalist, Lyndon has performed in operas, including La Boheme and Madame Butterfly. He can sing at least 13 different national anthems, including the anthems of Israel, Sweden, Germany, Slovakia, Japan, Czech Republic, Italy, Russia, Britian, USA, and Finland. His signature "wink and thumbs up" is as familiar to Sens fans as 400 series buses and Spartacat. He doesn't sing every game night, but come Saturday night, it's usually Lyndon: standing on the red carpet, wearing his dress blues, and raising our excitement for another night of Senators hockey.