When attending most sporting events, you hear the National Anthem. The Star Spangled Banner is one of the most difficult songs for a singer to sing. Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s epic. And every once in a while it’s simply atrocious.
So it did not really surprise me today when I read an article that a high school hockey league in Pennsylvania suggest teams to ditch the National Anthem and get the game going as fast as they can. In an email sent by PIHL Ed Sam to 183 Central and Western Pennsylvania teams saying that playing the National Anthem isn’t permitted heading into the upcoming season because of tight time constraints.
“The National Anthem should not be played only because of time constrains,” said Sam. “It’s not that we’re not patriotic, that’s the furthest from the truth.” And by these time constraints Sam means is that teams rent the ice to skate on and as a business, these arenas have to keep a strict schedule. Playing games with a curfew clock means that once the timer in the arena sounds off, the game is over no matter how much time is remaining on the scoreboard.
I agree with Sam, in that measures have to be taken to get the game started as fast as possible. Sam, also cited that ice costs in Pennsylvania can run upwards of $300/hr. And most high school games can last two hours. At $5/minute, teams want as much of the game completed as possible.
In addition, here are some reasons why the National Anthem should be ditched:
- Typically when it is sung, it’s not very good. No offense to the 14-year-old freshman who thinks she can sing because she’s in the school choir doesn’t mean she can pull off a difficult solo in front of hundreds of strangers. When sung quickly and efficiently, should take about a minute. But when you have untrained singers who try to stretch out every high note thinking they are the next Mariah Carey, it can drag on. If you think I’m making this up, why do we have an over/under prop bet on the length of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl? Unless your name is Karen Newman or you have a recording contract, please leave the Anthem to a CD.
- An additional minute is spent introducing such singer, pushing out a rug for them to stand on, and also fans in the crowd yelling and cat-calling. After this occurs (and the singer doesn’t screw up or fall), workers have to push the rug off the ice while the teams try to hype each other up at each net. Leave the huddles in the locker room or to Drew Brees.
As a referee, I have officiated close to 500 games in my life. I’ve been involved with a game with the National Anthem played no more than five to seven times. And most of the time I want to shake off the jitters (yes us referees get nervous and jittery too) and get the game started. I have also seen many negative things on the ice in regards to game length. USA Hockey (the governing body of hockey in the U.S. except for high school, college and professional) state that periods are to be no longer than 20 minutes. Just because you can make periods that long doesn’t mean you should. Having your 10-year-old’s travel team play periods of 15-17 minutes because you have 80 minutes of ice doesn’t mean you should. Kids at that age tire out quickly and the pace and quality of hockey is sloppy late in the third period due to fatigue. At this age, I believe periods should be no longer than 12 minutes.
The National Federation of High Schools oversees hockey at the interscholastic level. Their rules state that periods are to be 15 minutes, but some states (including Michigan) are permitted to play 17 minute periods. If they would keep it at 15 minutes across the board, more games would be completed in the 80 minute time limit without resurfacing the ice between periods or a national anthem. But I do support resurfacing the ice between periods because players at that age are much bigger and can quickly wear out the ice during the course of play.
In closing, don’t call me unpatriotic. That can’t be further from the truth. If teams do play the Anthem, leave it to the pep band, or a recording on a CD. It would be better time management for everyone and better on ears of the spectators.