Lauren Hart carries a special love for Flyers

AT NEARLY every home game for at least a decade, Lauren Hart has given the Flyers and their fans exactly what her father, legendary sportscaster Gene Hart, gave them for nearly 30 years - her voice.

But tonight, Hart, who will sing the national anthem for the first time at a Stanley Cup Finals game, is also looking forward to being just one voice in a swelling sea of many.

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Lauren Hart, after singing anthem on May 24.

"I can't imagine what it will feel like in that building," she said. "I know our fans and we won't do anything less than blow the roof off that stadium. I'm excited for the Flyers to hear us."

Hart was still in junior high when she first sang the national anthem for the Flyers, with her father looking down from the Spectrum press box.

She said fans still talk with her about her dad, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and was behind the microphone the last time the Flyers won the Stanley Cup.

"Every single day that I am out of this house someone will come up to me and tell me a story about my dad," Hart said. "My father had an incredibly special relationship with the fans and I feel all that has come to me."

When Gene Hart died in 1999, Lauren made a promise to sing at every home game that season in his honor.

Since then, by her calculations, she has missed singing at only five home games.

She missed three when she and her husband, Todd Carmichael, owner of La Colombe coffee, adopted three daughters from Ethiopia, now ages 8, 5 and 1, all of whom have become Flyers fans.

"They love it because they see how much we love it," she said. "Plus, it doesn't hurt for these kids from Africa to be able to go into school and make that connection with other kids."

Hart said the two other games she has missed were when she was battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"Oddly enough, they call it NHL," she said. "It was so weird when someone said to me 'You have NHL.' "

Hart, whose cancer has been in remission for 10 years, said the Flyers played a part in helping her to beat the disease.

"The fact that I had a place to go and family and friends to be with during that time, it helped me recover and saved me in many ways that year," she said.

The Flyers game that sticks out most in her mind, Hart said, was the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, the closest she'd been to the Stanley Cup Finals before tonight.

As a good-luck ritual, Hart sings a duet of "God Bless America" with a video of Kate Smith before major games. She did so that night and, although the Flyers lost, Hart learned that her cancer was in remission.

"It was one of the few times it didn't do the trick, but maybe it was meant for something else that night," she said.

Hart said she doesn't know if she'll sing the duet tonight and said she never knows until right before a game.

"It's a game of superstition, so people won't find out until we walk out [tonight]," she said.

Tonight, Hart's superstitious ritual - along with singing in the shower - will be to wear a 36-year-old T-shirt from the 1974 Stanley Cup Flyers.

Superstitions aside, Hart is optimistic about the Flyers' chances.

"Most importantly, they believe they can do it," she said. "It's just like music: You can have all the skill in the world and it's just that extra magic something that puts it over the top.

"There are some nights that extra, intangible something happens," she said.