John Amirante sang his final national anthem for the Rangers last night before Game 2 of their first-round series against the Penguins, ending a 35-year run with the team he has rooted for since he was 12.
Amirante, 80, had seen his workload trimmed in recent years to the point that he was told before this season that he would do only four games: the opener, two other regular-season games and the second home playoff game.
“In my head it will be my best performance ever,” he said before the game. “I’ll treat it like it’s the first time I sang here. I’ll give it my all. I always gave it my all.”
Word began to spread among fans after Newsday reported the news on its website about an hour before the game, and the crowd gave him a raucous ovation when he was announced.
NBC showed the performance nationally, after which an emotional Amirante blew a kiss to the crowd and left the ice.
Amirante said he had been considering retiring, but he was upset by the way Madison Square Garden handled his departure, saying he “wanted to retire with some dignity. I just didn’t want to be shoved out the door, it seems.”
Mostly, he said, he would have liked an announcement to allow fans to properly bid him farewell, and vice versa.
“I love these fans, are you kidding?” he said. “I love them . . . It was a fabulous run. I’ll never forget ’94. I wish them all the luck this year, even though I’m not going to be a part of it.”
A Garden spokesman said of Amirante, “The Rangers appreciate his years of service and wish him well.”
Amirante endorsed the work of Danny Rodriguez, who sang the anthem before Game 1 of the Penguins-Rangers series.
Amirante has said his favorite anthem of the more than 1,000 he has sung in public was the one before Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, during which the Garden was so loud he could not hear a word he was singing.
He was aboard for the long playoff ride to the Cup Final last season, but Amirante’s 2015 run was one and done.
“This hurts,” he said. “But what are you going to do? That’s show business.”