An entirely new era of Chicago Blackhawks hockey has begun, and while the franchise underwent dramatic changes both on and off the ice over the past two years, one storied tradition is here to stay.
Before the puck dropped for the Blackhawks' preseason opener on Thursday, long-time PA announcer Gene Honda summoned players to the blue line for the United States national anthem.
Fans cheering throughout "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the United Center before a Blackhawks game is one of the best-known traditions in the NHL. It's also one that rookie Connor Bedard, along with many of his new teammates, experienced Thursday for the very first time.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
"Yeah, it was really cool," Bedard said. "Just kind of getting out there and hearing everyone in the crowd. And of course the anthem was pretty unreal.
"Really warm welcome. And it's good to get those first few shifts in, and it's really good to have the crowd we have tonight. So we really appreciate that."
Jim Cornelison has been the team's national anthem singer since 2007, replacing a string of performers from Chicago's Lyric Opera. Before that, Wayne Messmer had the honor from 1980-1994.
The tradition for fans to applaud and cheer loudly from start to finish during the singing of the national anthem originated before Game 3 of the 1985 conference finals at Chicago Stadium. May 9, to be exact.
Trailing 0-2 in the series to Wayne Gretsky's Edmonton Oilers, Blackhawks fans at Chicago Stadium were doing everything they could to hype up the team. It's also alleged that Oilers fans caused a ruckus during the U.S. anthem in Edmonton earlier that series, which Troy Murray, then a member of the Blackhawks, called "a slight to the anthem."
The Blackhawks won Games 3 and 4 to tie the series, but ultimately lost to the Oilers in six games.
But the tradition stuck.
The ritual gained national attention in 1991 when the NHL All-Star game was hosted in Chicago, three days after George H. Bush announced the start of what would be the Persian Gulf War.
Cornelison is accompanied by organist Frank Pellico for all home games at the United Center.