ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The unpredictable winter weather in Buffalo has
been a constant theme as far as the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic is
But for famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who will sing God Bless America prior to the first puck's drop, he wouldn't miss this assignment for anything.
"You get an opportunity like this once in a lifetime," said Tynan. "Screw the weather."
Coming to Buffalo is no problem for Tynan, who is most associated with
the New York Yankees, but has grown into a huge hockey fan, and a
devoted follower of the Sabres.
"I have a huge association
with the Sabres, they're my hockey team," Tynan said. "They're a great
bunch of men. They're a great association. I've grown to love Buffalo,
grown to love the Sabres, and I love the hockey games. It's the most
intense sport anyone can watch. Ice hockey is the most physical,
dramatic, driven game I've ever seen. And when you're right down on the
sideline, with just the glass protecting you, it's the scariest thing
imaginable, but it's an adrenaline driver."
|Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sings God Bless America prior to Game 2 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinal game between the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers on April 27, 2007 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York.|
Growing up in Ireland, Tynan's sporting interests were rugby and
hurling. Ice hockey was as foreign to him as it would be to a Martian.
But all that changed after he saw the movie Miracle.
Not long after that, Tynan met Steve Janaszak, the backup goalkeeper on that 1980 U.S. Olympic squad.
"He was delighted to meet me and I was delighted to meet him," said Tynan. "He asked if I had ever seen Miracle and
I said; 'It was amazing. I was so proud of you. I felt like I was
there.' Every American has great patriotism, and when you watch a movie
like that, you come out saying; 'Go USA.' I was taken by it. I thought
he was a class, class guy. About two weeks later, I got a photograph
with all the players' signature from the 1980 game, which is unique.
That's a treasure.
"That generated my real interest in going
back and looking at a couple things. Ice hockey, when you see it on
television it's not as powerful, but when you're there it's
Tynan, who also does motivational speaking, was
invited to sing before a game by Sabres Managing Partner Larry Quinn.
Quinn also asked Tynan to speak to the team.
"When the Sabres
approached me, my interest was huge," Tynan said. "I wanted to do it
because, one, I wanted to see a live hockey game. But because I do a
lot of motivational speaking, Larry said; 'Would you speak to the
team?' I was taken aback by it, but also honored. Even though the
players are half my age, there was an instant connection with the guys.
They won that night and the next time I came back, they had a huge
plaque on the wall with two sabers on it, with the quote I said to
them. The quote, in a nutshell, is; 'The will is inside you. And when
you capture it, it brings out the finest in you.' I said to them no one
man is a team, a team is a unit, an army, and when you combine the
force of an army, you have the will."
The team won that night,
and the next time Tynan went into the Sabres' dressing room, he found a
plaque hanging there with his name and his quote.
"Then I knew straightaway this was my team," he said.
Tynan, who has homes in Ireland and Florida, spends a great deal of
time at his apartment in New York City, and when the Sabres hit the
area, Tynan tries not to miss them. New York fans have adopted the
6-foot-4 native of Dublin as their own thanks to his many memorable
appearances at Yankee Stadium.
"I've been at games where the
Sabres have played at Madison Square Garden, and the fans say; 'Ronan
Tynan, yeah.' And they think, he's a Rangers fan because of the
Yankees. Has to be. And underneath my coat, I have Sabres all over. And
they say; 'No kidding! What the heck!'"
He told a similar
story of a trip to Nassau Coliseum for an Islanders-Sabres game, and
how he found himself in an elevator with Quinn, a priest and another
"This priest gets in the elevator and he says; 'Ronan
Tynan, 'tis marvelous, you're here for us, you're here for the
Islanders.'" Tynan then opened to his coat, and much to the priest's
chagrin, Tynan was decked out in blue and gold.
"He says; 'You traitor! I can't believe it! Mother of God, what are you doing supporting Buffalo?'"
But Tynan does support Buffalo, and the Sabres, and while he sings only
a few times per season at HSBC Arena, he finds other ways to promote
the team and town. Sunday night, he played a sold-out concert at the
Buffalo Philharmonic, which featured Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and forward Drew Stafford on guitar.
One thing Tynan won't do, though, is put on a pair of skates. The
47-year-old had both legs amputated below the knees at age 20 due to an
automobile accident, but the loss drove him to become an elite
Paralympic athlete. Most of his success was on the track, but after
some cajoling by friends, he tried skating on a rink near London.
"They said; 'Come on Ronan give it a try,'" said Tynan, who reluctantly
agreed. "They put me out in the center, which is really bad. I got up,
got my balance, and I put two hands out and I looked and saw this crowd
coming, and I thought; 'I'm going to get killed. I just fell flat. I
knocked people head over heels, and in the process I got torn in the
side by a skate, and I needed 14 stitches in my side. That was the
extent of my skating career."
So, instead, he's stuck to
singing, and has been immensely successful. And he'll lend that
successful, well-known voice to the NHL Winter Classic, despite
anything the weather might have in store.
"You're praying that
you keep going and the cold won't freeze the voice box," he said. "I'll
stay indoors as much as I can until I sing, and once it's done I'll try
and enjoy the game."