John Amirante, whose performances of the national anthem were a staple at New York Rangers home games since 1980, has died at 83, the team announced Tuesday morning.
"It is with great sadness our Rangers family shares the loss of legendary anthem singer John Amirante, who passed away this morning at 83. Our thoughts are with his wife Ann, his children and the entire Amirante family. We will forever remember and miss John," the Rangers said in a statement.
"I will always remember him with a great smile on my face."— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 17, 2018
- Henrik Lundqvist pic.twitter.com/09jux2JON2
Amirante had been hospitalized and died of natural causes, according to the Rangers.
Amirante, a New York native who grew up a Rangers fan, became the regular anthem singer for the Rangers and New York Knicks after debuting in November 1980. His time with the Knicks ended in the 1990s, but he continued with the Rangers until 2015. Afterward, he would appear on occasion to sing the anthem, and the Madison Square Garden faithful would roar in appreciation.
It was the fans who made Amirante's most famous moment with the Rangers: his anthem before Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, as the team was one win away from breaking a 54-year championship drought. The fans drowned him out. Amirante would later say it was the highlight of his career, even if his performance was rendered inaudible.
As for singing the anthem, which he did countless times at New York sporting events, Amirante contended it wasn't a difficult song. "The problem is most people think too much about it," he told Newsday in 2014. "I sing it like I'm saying my prayers at night. It just comes out."
Amirante's last performance at the Garden was on Feb. 25, before a Rangers game against the Detroit Red Wings.