Citing the need to not waste precious ice time, the commissioner of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League has discouraged the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games. Late last week, Ed Sam sent an email to the PIHL's 183 high school team members in central and western Pennsylvania conveying that message.
"The National Anthem should not be played only because of time constrains [sic]," Sam told Pittsburgh's CBS affiliate, KDKA-TV. "It's not that we're not patriotic, that's the furthest from the truth. Ice is very, very hard to get and it's not cheap. We're talking $300 an hour sometimes or even higher than that."
Reaction was fast and furious, with fans suggesting alternatives. "[T]hey should just extend the time period they have to play the game," Melanie Chakrabarti told the television station. "I don't agree with it," added Beth Spena. "There should be some other time that can be cut."
"I go back to the 1960s with high school hockey, and it's always been a part of it," said Bob Mock, the skating director at Center Ice & Blades of Western Pennsylvania in Delmont, where PIHL games are played. "[It's a] part of our history, and it should be a part of the game."
According to a Fox News Radio report, Sam later tried to soften his admitted "poor choice of words," telling reporter Todd Starnes that "a lot of our teams never really played the National Anthem. But some of them did."