Every Rangers fan was rooting for them to defeat the Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but no Rangers fan was rooting harder than John Amirante.
The team’s longtime national anthem singer knew he was scheduled for the second home game of the second round, so he needed the Rangers to advance to get his shot.
“I was praying for them to beat Montreal, I’ll tell you that,” he said before singing the Canadian and United States anthems Thursday night before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Senators.
“I love this. I love the atmosphere, especially in a playoff. There’s nothing like hockey. It’s the most exciting sport there is.”
Amirante, 82, sang the anthem only five times during the regular season, but he said of the limited schedule, “At this point in my career, it doesn’t bother me.”
Not that he plans on retiring anytime soon. “I say if Tony Bennett can keep singing at 90, I can keep singing at 82,” he said.
Amirante’s scheduled appearance Thursday night stirred excitement among many fans in advance of the game. “I love them, they’re great fans, and it is gratifying, believe me,” he said.
The fact that the Rangers were facing a Canadian team gave Amirante a chance to sing two songs rather than one.
“I like the melody of it,” he said of the Canadian anthem. “It doesn’t have the range like the [American] anthem does. It’s a lot easier, but so is the [American] anthem; at least it’s easy for me. I’ve been doing it a long time.”
Amirante hopes to be invited back later in the playoffs if the Rangers advance.
“The way they played the last game [a 4-1 victory on Tuesday night], if they play like that, there’s no doubt they’ll win,” he said.