NHL Players Aren't The Only Ones Locked Out

Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin speaks with Bob McDonald, who sings the national anthem at Washington Capitals games in D.C. His 20th year with the team was spoiled this season by the NHL lockout.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The NHL lockout drags on - and it's not just the players who have been shut out of their season. The hockey labor dispute has also iced the part-time job of Master Sergeant Bob McDonald. Mr. McDonald was looking forward to his 20th season singing the National Anthem for the Washington Capitals, who play at the Verizon Center here in D.C., just down the street from our offices. Bob McDonald joins us now in the studio. Welcome to the program.

MASTER SERGEANT BOB MCDONALD: Thank you.

MARTIN: So, you are a singer in the U.S. Army, right?

MCDONALD: Yes, ma'am.

MARTIN: I mean, this is a difficult song to sing. I mean, it's challenging. I read in the Washington Post that players like your interpretation of the "Star Spangled Banner" because you don't sing too slowly or add little musical embellishments.

MCDONALD: Yeah. It's really a simple formula. I mean, I really just sing it straight and briskly and don't make it about me. I think, you know, the players, the last thing that they want to hear is embellished national anthem. They want to play. You know, they want to drop the puck and get going.

MARTIN: This would have been your 20th season.

MCDONALD: That's right.

MARTIN: The lockout has made that impossible. How tough has it been for you?

MCDONALD: Oh, you know, I mean, it's just sad really. You know, it's really sad more just as a fan. But maybe they'll pull it together and maybe a miracle will happen and we'll have a shortened season starting in January.

MARTIN: Are you just like walking around the house singing, oh, say can you see?

MCDONALD: No, no. Actually, I'm not complaining that I don't have to sing the anthem as much as I normally do. 'Cause, as you say, it's not easy to sing. So, it's not too bad to have a little bit of a rest of singing the anthem. That's the only positive of the experience.

MARTIN: After almost 20 years of doing this, is it still exciting? Is it still a thrill to step out there and sing the national anthem?

MCDONALD: Absolutely. Especially as a master sergeant in the Army. 'Cause I know who I represent, all the troops defending our country and the veterans. And that really, really makes it special.

MARTIN: You still get nervous?

MCDONALD: It's more, I guess, excited, you know, maybe less nervous, but definitely on the edge. I mean, it's a cappella and I'm out on the ice on a little piece of carpet. And, you know, there's 18,000 people. So, if you don't get a little something out of that, you need to check your pulse, you know. And at the end it's just amazing to hear the crowd go crazy and then we get to watch hockey.

MARTIN: Bob McDonald. He sings the national anthem for the Washington Capitals. Thanks so much for coming in, Bob.

MCDONALD: My pleasure. You're welcome. (Singing) O, say does that star spangled banner yet wave, for the land of the free and the home of the brave.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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