Veterans Day is usually reserved for honoring the American flag and those who fought to preserve the values it stands for. In Pennsylvania on Monday, it also oversaw ferocious debate over one of the least patriotic things possible: eliminating the playing of the national anthem from all high school hockey games.
As first reported by Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League has issued a directive to 183 high school squads in central and western Pennsylvania banning the national anthem from being performed.
"The national anthem should not be played only because of time constrains," PIHL commissioner Ed Sam told KDKA. "It's not that we're not patriotic, that's the furthest from the truth."
While Sam's words might sound like bizarre lip service, there actually is some logic to the PIHL's decision to kick the national anthem out of high school hockey. Sam notes that ice time in western Pennsylvania is quite expensive, making every minute of rented time sacred in an era of cutbacks throughout interscholastic athletics.
That became apparent when at least one arena halted a high school game even though the third period hadn't completed because the schools' rented ice time had expired. In the game where that recently happened, the pregame routine was marked by an "overly verbose rendition of the national anthem."
"Ice is very, very hard to get and it's not cheap," said Sam. "We're talking $300 an hour sometimes or even higher than that."
It goes without saying that the PIHL's timing wasn't exactly ideal, with the league announcing the national anthem ban just days before Veterans Day. The decision sparked total outrage from a number of Pennsylvania hockey parents and fans, sending Sam and his cohorts into crisis control. The PIHL board has already announced that it will hold another meeting to discuss whether the national anthem ban should be revoked.
In the meantime, the pregame routine for high school games in central and western Pennsylvania will continue without the musical patriotic oath that serves as the universal entrance script for sporting events across the country, much to the chagrin of fans in the stands.
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