We asked you, our subscribers to submit your favorite story from the grand Lady, The Chicago Stadium (1929-1994) and we received some classic stories about the great games, fights, and unforgettable goals, as well as the recollections of the building itself. We heard about the second balcony, where the action was, or the favorite vendor and the best concession location to hang out. We heard a number of accounts of running through the parking lot to get there in time for the National Anthem. There was more than one mention of being late and turning around and going home. Even I had forgotten about the Sonja Henie Room. There were a number of mentions of the NHL All-Star Game in January of 1991 when the world first witnessed “The Roar.” Just to have actually been there for many was the far and away biggest mention of all.
Hockey writer Joe Pelletier wrote about his personal experience of that day:
“The 1991 NHL All Star Game in noisy old Chicago Stadium. No one really remembers much of the game itself, but everyone remembers Wayne Messmer's daunting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. With the original Gulf War just days old, the crowd at Chicago Stadium almost drowns him out in their undeniably emotional support of their country and their troops. Maybe it was one of those things that you just had to be in the moment to truly understand it. But for those of who were, it's something you can never forget.”
A surprise entry mentioned one of the other great moments, in which I played a role on New Year’s Day of 1990. This was our favorite too.
Tony Schmidt recalled:
I will never forget one very special, amazing and emotionally charged evening of January 1, 1990 when the Hawks were playing the big, bad Soviet red Army team. It was a special night because I was taking my girlfriend Julie, who later became my wife to her very first hockey game. I couldn’t wait to get there. We walked in the moment they opened the doors and went right to our seats in the First Balcony on the Press Box side of the ice, right on the blue line. I was out of my mind excited because it was Viktor Tikhonov vs Mike Keenan behind the bench. My favorite player Al Secord and the Hawks came on the ice and it was time for the Anthems. The first thing I noticed was that Keenan had sent out rookie Jimmy Waite to face the Red Army. But the best was about to come. The organ started the introduction of a song that I had never heard before it was the Soviet National Anthem. I remember that Wayne Messmer used to sing from the organ loft and I listened as he went on to sing their anthem in Russian. I was blown away. It reminded of one of the Rocky movies (Rocky IV) where he fights the big Russian (Ivan Drago). It was a moment that overshadowed the game itself, which we lost 6-4 as I remember, but the Soviet Anthem set the tone for a special memory that my wife and I still talk about, especially when we order a vodka drink.
Just In case you missed it from last week’s special message, here’s the article about the origin of the National Anthem phenomenon at the Hawks games from the New York Times.