Flyers at 50: Kate Smith and God Bless America

Flyers history 50

By Mike Watson, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

December 11, 1969

Kate Smith and an audio recording of her rendition of "God Bless America" was first played on this day back in 1969. The move was not immediately well received — replacing the "Star Spangled Banner" before Philadelphia Flyers games.

In an effort to mix things up at times, this version of the Irving Berlin classic would turn out to be somewhat of a good luck charm for the Orange and Black. The peculiar thing was when this was played at the Spectrum, the Flyers would win. And they would win a lot. 

During the first six years of this "tradition," the Flyers would record a staggering 43-3-1 record. Forget Murphy's Law, the Flyers were onto something. Superstition? Maybe, or maybe not, but if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it. It soon became a psychological edge to the team, and against their foes.

Before Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins' Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr both shook hands with Kate in one of her live performances at the Spectrum, hoping to "break the spell" so to speak. It didn't work and the Flyers defeated the Bruins 1-0 that day and won their first of two Stanley Cups.

The record for "God Bless America" at the Spectrum? 65-13-2. 

Kate Smith passed away in 1986, but the tradition of God Bless America lived on for the Flyers. It still is used every so often when the Flyers need a big win. As of April 26, 2011, the Flyers have a 94-26-4 record when "God Bless America" is sung. In more recent times, the Flyers have been known to have anthemist Lauren Hart sing "God Bless America" solo or duet with the video of Kate Smith from the 1974 Stanley Cup Final.

The video of Kate Smith at the Spectrum on May 19, 1974 can be seen via YouTube below.