Anthem singer fires up Mellon crowd
Penguins national anthem fan favorite Jeff Jimerson couldn't say — or even sing — whether he's a good-luck charm for his NHL team.
"I don't know if it's true," he said, "but I think I get them off to the right start. I get them pumped up."
Jimerson will perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" in front of sold-out Mellon Arena tonight, when the Penguins host the Capitals in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with hopes the golden-throated Franklin Park man is once again the team's lucky charm.
The Pens, who trail the Capitals 2-0 in the best-of-seven semifinals, have won 11 of their past 14 home playoff games, as Jimerson gets the crowd going.
While his record isn't as glowing as Kate Smith's "God Bless America" at the Philadelphia Spectrum in the 1970s, the crowd at Mellon Arena seems to get an extra buzz when Jimerson takes the microphone.
"Every time they announce his name, the place erupts," said season-ticket holder Ray Rost, 35, of the South Side. "Whenever the crowd sees him, they get fired up."
While the perception is the Penguins fare better when Jimerson performs, the numbers are mixed. Since last year, the Penguins have a .694 winning percentage (34-15-6) when Jimerson sings and a .718 clip (28-11-2) when someone else takes the stage.
Still, the Penguins won their first nine home playoff games last season, all with Jimerson kicking things off.
"There is nothing like playoff time," he said. "For the most part, I'm pretty uptight and a nervous wreck. I just don't want to screw it up."
Jimerson is admittedly superstitious and follows the same routine before each game. He takes a sip of bottled water at the 30-second break before the anthem, he carries three $20 bills, and nothing else, in his front pocket. He always warms up three times - at his home, in his car and backstage at the arena after the first Zamboni leaves the ice.
Jimerson sang his first national anthem at a Penguins game in December 1990. Because he was a newcomer, he didn't get the call for that year's Stanley Cup finals or in 1991-92, when an 11-year-old named Christina Aguilera performed both games during the sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Jimerson, a full-time singer/musician who performs with the band Airborne, has been the Penguins' regular national anthem singer since the mid-1990s.
Jimerson knows the game is always bigger than the performance. One example was B.E. Taylor's sprawling rendition before the 1991 Game 1 Stanley Cup finals with the Minnesota North Stars. After the Pens lost, 5-4, fans blamed Taylor for killing the atmosphere in the arena with his drawn-out anthem.
"He's a real good friend of mine, and it's a shame that happened," Jimerson said. "If anything, I sped up too much early on. I've learned to relax a little bit. People come to watch hockey, not me. That's the way I approach it."
Jimerson admits he will dig deeper, give a little bit more, depending on the magnitude of the game. He is at his choked-up best in the Stanley Cup playoffs or the regular-season finale, when the Penguins honored three fallen Pittsburgh Police officers.
"That puts a whole new spin on it," Jimerson said. "You have the color guard and there are 17,000 screaming people and you ask for a moment of silence. You could hear a pin drop. That was emotional."
As for tonight's pivotal Game 3 against the Capitals, Jimerson promises to set the tone for the evening.
"They will," he said, "be jacked up."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Crosby says he would play goal if needed
- Crosby, Malkin chase scoring title amid defense-minded league
- Penguins need trade-deadline acquisitions to bring toughness
- Penguins acquire defensemen Lovejoy, Cole in deadline deals
- Rangers up ante in Metropolitan Division with trade acquisitions
- Penguins eye move for former center Staal
- Penguins GM Rutherford not counting on Dupuis’ return
- Starkey: Penguins not mortgaging future
- Power play shines in Penguins’ home victory over Blue Jackets
- Penguins notebook: ‘Skill practice’ part of optional workout
- Penguins notebook: Team exercising caution with Ehrhoff’s return from concussion