Six years after losing his job running the senator's anthem, Lyndon Slewidge is open to a new opportunity. (2023)

A crooked smile crosses Lyndon Slewidge's face when he's asked to retell the story of how he managed to become one.OttawaPermanent singer of the senators' anthem.

In the summer of 1992, Slewidge had a personal meeting with team owner Bruce Firestone at the club's temporary offices on Moodie Drive. At this point, Slewid was pretty sure of the job, but Firestone remained a bit skeptical.

"Are you sure you're comfortable with this?" Firestone asked.

Slewidge was quick to respond: "I've sung the anthem so many times I can even sing it backwards."


Firestone, surprised, asked for a demonstration.

Without missing a beat, Slwidge rose from his chair in Firestone's office, turned to the owner, and began to sing the opening lines of "O Canada".

It was a corny parenting joke, but it helped secure Slewidge the job. It was a great preview of the confidence and charisma Slwidge would bring to work every night.

More than 30 years later, Slewidge seems to delight in retelling that anecdote, even rising from her dining room chair to recreate the scene where she sang Firestone "in reverse."

When he speaks, he has a twinkle in his eye. His deep, familiar voice, easily recognizable to several generations of Senators fans, is full of animation as he reminisces.

For a man who has lost so much over the years, Lyndon Slewidge still exudes positivity. And he still feels like he hasn't written another chapter in his story yet.

A few feet from the dining room where Slwidge told the story of his appointment to the Ottawa Senators, an ominous memory recalls how he lost his job.

In the fall of 2016, Slwidge was sitting in a chair in his living room when he received an email from a member of the club's board of directors. For 24 years he concluded contracts with the ice hockey club in a very simple way. It was less a negotiation and more a formality.

"There was never a rush to sign a new contract because they always knew I would be back," says Slewid.

But this email took a decidedly different tone.

The Senators informed Slewidge that they only planned to use him for a few games in the 2016-17 season. His tenure as lead singer of the hockey club's anthem ended abruptly.

Slewidge quickly showed the email to his wife, Cindy, who was shocked and in disbelief.

“We kept saying, 'No. No,'" says Slewidge. “You're just questioning logic. And there was no explanation. When you give an explanation, that's one thing. If I didn't make it on time or didn't finish the job or got the lyrics wrong, you might say, “That's okay,” but that was unexpected. Where did that come from?"


Senators were bombarded with complaints on social media about the longtime hymn singer's treatment. After 24 years in charge, Slewid has become intricately woven into the franchise's structure. In many ways, Slwidge's removal from office was comparable to the sudden replacement of Spartacat as the club's official mascot.

The Senators released a statement in October 2016, which said, "As part of the Senators' 25th anniversary celebrations, the team is attempting a number of new arena activations for fans, including inviting other artists and performers to perform the national anthems. to sing. That doesn't mean Lyndon won't be invited to sing at games in the future, just not as often as in previous seasons."

During Slewidge's 24-year tenure, the Ottawa Senators played 972 regular season and playoff home games. One guess suggests that Slwidge sang the anthem approximately 900 times at Ottawa home games. He missed a game or two here and there, but he was a constant presence on the microphone at Senators' home games. If the Senators had a good playoff run, it wasn't out of the question that Slewidge would sing the anthem nearly 50 times during a hockey season.

So the cold, distant e-mail Slwidge received from the hockey club did not reflect his seniority in the service. And he says that if the club had scheduled a face-to-face meeting to discuss his change in philosophy, they might have been willing to be more relaxed.

"I would be open to it," explains Slewridge. “Because to me that would mean they were going in the other direction, but at least they gave me the courtesy of saying yes. And thank you for your service. But they didn't. It was raw. Very raw."

In the spring of 1992, Slewidge and Cindy happily moved the family to Sault Ste. Maria. Slwidge was a full-time member of the city's police force and also worked part-time as a hymn singer for the OHL Greyhounds.

Her singing talent was first discovered when she won a local Kiwanis music festival at the age of nine. She honed her singing skills and eventually landed a job singing the Greyhounds anthem, a position she held for 14 years. I would have been perfectly content to stay the course until a friend saw a TV report about Ottawa senators conducting a public search for their new anthem singer.

"Perhaps you should check out this work," the friend said to Slewidge.

So Slewid put together a package that included a demo tape of her singing, a glossy photograph, her resume, and several letters of endorsement from people associated with her work at Sault Ste. Maria. The hockey club received around 60 serious applicants for the position, but Slwidge's package outperformed its competitors.

Slewidge recalls a call from Randy Burgess, the hockey club's original director of public relations. Intrigued by Slwidge's resume and package, the senators asked him a simple question.

"What would it take for you to come here?"


If Slwidge were a single man with no strings attached, this would be an easy decision. He saw Roger Doucet sing the national anthems on TV beforeCanadianGames at the Montreal Forum in the 1970s and dreamed of the possibility of following a similar path. But Slwidge and his wife had three children to raise, and moving them to a new town was going to be a challenge.

Furthermore, Slewidge found that he would have to re-apply to become a full-time Ottawa police officer. His tenure at Sault Ste. Marie was transferable from a pension standpoint, but he would resume aptitude and aptitude tests for officer certification in Ottawa.

These obstacles did not deter Slwidge. He and Cindy packed up the family and made the eight-hour drive to Ottawa to start a new chapter in their lives.

"I could have stayed at Soo, but it shows how much effort I put into it to succeed," says Slewidge.

And while he got the job singing the senators' anthem, it was only a part-time job for him. She needed to get a full-time nine-to-five job that really paid her family's bills. So he applied to be a police officer for the Province of Ontario and overcame all the obstacles he had faced 15 years earlier.

"It was like he was new and starting to recruit," says Slewidge. "I was 38, running a mile, doing sit-ups and push-ups."

He remembers finishing his mile run just under the allotted time, much to the astonishment of the person with the stopwatch.

"I went over the wire," says Slewid. "And the recruiter says, 'I can't believe it. I would have lost my house if I'd bet on that. I didn't think a man your size could walk that far.'


Slwidge beams with pride as he tells the story of how he crossed the finish line and received his police certificate just as a man was about to turn 40.

"It shows the desire he had. He wanted this job at the hockey club. It took blood, guts and blood to make it happen."

When senators offered Slewidge the full-time job on the anthem, they offered little notice. The team had already promised the debut to local singer Alanis Morissette, 18, who was on the cusp of becoming a superstar. Slwidge would sign regularly thereafter, starting with the club's second home game against Hartford Whalers on 22 October 1992.

He doesn't remember many details of his debut performance, admitting only that it was a "mix of nervousness and emotion".

When the franchise hit the road and served as a doormat forNHLOpponents, Slwidge felt some of that expansion pain in his role. Remember all the P.A. Cut system for one of his first performances at the Civic Center.

"So I sang without the mic working," recalls Slewidge. "But the fans came together to help balance it out."

In the more than three seasons that Slwidge has sung the anthems at the Civic Center, he has played them quite directly.

But when the club moved into his West End home, the Palladium, in January 1996, Slewidge felt free to add an element of his personality to the end of his performances. His signature became the salute as he winked at the television camera. He would then give an empathetic thumbs-up gesture as the home crowd cheered wildly.

"It was something that would make my performance unique and unforgettable," says Slewidge. "It was my stamp and signature of who I was."

As the Senators rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s and became strong contenders for the Stanley Cup, Slewidge's fame grew along with them. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, government officials asked Slwidge to sing the Canadian and American anthems during a memorial service on the lawn of Parliament Hill. That day, under tight security, only four people were allowed onto the stage: Prime Minister Jean Chretien, US Ambassador Paul Celucci, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and Slewidge.

Six years after losing his job running the senator's anthem, Lyndon Slewidge is open to a new opportunity. (1)

Slewidge became a recognizable face at the Canadian Tire Center and in Ottawa. (André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Given the magnitude and scale of the situation, it was the only time Slwidge admitted to being overcome with nervousness during the performance of the hymns.

“While I was singing, my left leg started to shake. I was behind the keynote so the crowd couldn't see it," says Slewidge. "I was like, 'This is the biggest event I've ever been to. And it far exceeds anything in the hockey world.”


Slewidge quickly became one of Ottawa's most recognizable faces and voices. He was routinely stopped by fans while he was out on gas or shopping. Fans would often greet him, excitedly saying, "Hey, you're the anthem guy."

But since Slwidge still had a day job as an active policeman, some awkward situations ensued.

"It's been difficult at times to balance that in the law enforcement community," explains Slewid. "My co-workers looked at me and said, 'Are you a cop or a singer?' I think that made a lot of people uncomfortable."

But Slewidge always felt supported by his superiors at OPP, who saw his hymn performances as positive publicity for the department.

It certainly was embarrassing when Slewidge was doing his police work and someone recognized him in the field. He recalls pulling a vehicle over for a traffic violation when the driver recognized Slewidge immediately.

"He said to me, 'You're that kind of anthem.' I see you on TV all the time. I even have your autographs on one of your cards. Can you let me come over here?" says Schlewige.

Rather than dismissing the fan with a warning, Slewid says he has fulfilled his duties as an official.

"I told him, 'No, I won't let you go.' But I'll give you my autograph again,'" says Slewid.

Slwidge signed the traffic regulation and handed it back to the driver.

Closing this story about the traffic ticket, Slewidge ends up giving the same trademark wink he used to do in front of the television cameras. These amusing anecdotes are told effortlessly and full of color.

But there's one thing Slwidge can't talk about.

In the fall of 2020, Slewidge and his wife experienced every parent's worst nightmare when their 39-year-old son, Gregory, was found dead in their rented property in Carleton Place.The story gained headlines and attention in the region., like O.P.P. filed first-degree murder charges against two men they claimed were behind Gregory's murder. The Christmas season was marked by sadness for the Slewidge family, as both men appeared in court in the days leading up to Christmas.

Slwidge is not ready to solve this problem right now. And he may never be able to speak publicly about the devastating loss of his family.

But he does offer a glimpse into his soul when asked what his family has meant along his personal journey.

As he ponders the question, Slewid's eyes fill with tears. And when he finally speaks, his rich baritone voice suddenly explodes with emotion.

"I couldn't have done what I could without my wife's support," says Slewid. “And my family and my children. They changed from soo to me where we had a normal life. We came to Ottawa and we didn't know anyone. I didn't even know where to refuel. We had no family dentist or family doctor. They had to rewrite our whole lives for me. And that support from my inner core and my family means everything."

When Slwidge finishes his answer, Cindy grabs his hand to steady him. They've been married for nearly 45 years and have lived the full gamut of life's emotions side by side. Cindy jokes that she has the opposite personality of her husband.

"I don't like walking into a room full of people," he says with a laugh. "But he can go out there and sing in front of 20,000 people like nothing happened."

While Slwidge was a familiar name and face, Cindy was the invisible hand helping everything run smoothly in the background. On nights when Slewidge sang a game anthem at home, Cindy always made sure his dinner was ready for him by 3pm. m. The routine was straightforward and easy. Slwidge liked to eat four hours before his performances to ensure he didn't experience digestive problems.

Cindy says she doesn't have any particular food she likes, but there was only one rule: nothing spicy. Her husband was always worried that heartburn might be a problem during a performance.

Slwidge's house is filled with the kind of warmth you'd expect on vacation. They talk excitedly about watching their grandson open presents under the Christmas tree in the living room. The couple has faced unimaginable hardships and losses, but they don't have a hardened downside.

"We've always put family first," says Cindy. “Jobs mean nothing. Our family is everything."

Slewidge has only returned to the Canadian Tire Center for one Ottawa Senators game since his sudden departure from the organization in the fall of 2016. A friend offered him a ticket to a game and Slewidge accepted.

"I was there to hear the anthem," says Slewidge. "It was a girl singing."

It was probably Sophia Pierce who sang the anthem the night Slwidge attended as a fan. Pierce, now 12, is one of the regular contributors who perform the hymns at the Canadian Tire Center. Pierce wowed the crowd in 2019 at the age of nine and even won aBruins forward Brad Marchand gave a congratulatory handshake after his introduction..

Prior to the start of this regular season, the hockey club held an open call for auditions to join Pierce in the rotating roster of regular anthem singers for home games.

"A quality rendition of 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'O Canada' has always been a mainstay at pre-match ceremonies at the Canadian Tire Centre," the club wrote in an online post. “Ottawa Senators are looking for new individuals or groups to join our roster of talented artists. Any interested anthem performer may submit an audio or video recording of the national anthems of the United States and Canada, performed a cappella and consecutively. Include your name, age, experience singing hymns and, if a group, the number of people in the group. If you are uploading an audio file, please include a photo.”

Like 30 years ago, Slwidge would have a demo reel that would blow its competition out of the water. He has not made a formal request, but Slewidge wants to know if he would be willing to return to the Senators in any capacity.

"Would I go back? Yes, I would go back under the right conditions," says Slewidge. "Not to play every game, but I would consider playing a few games for a team that is on the rise.

In recent months, senators have done an admirable job of mending broken relationships. Daniel Alfredsson was welcomed with open arms. They introduced former team president Cyril Leeder on the arena's giant screen. Wade Redden was inducted into the club's Ring of Honor.

Giving Slewidge the chance to come back and sing the anthem would certainly be another example of the organization re-establishing its connection to the past.

"It looks like they're going in a different direction now, possibly with a new ownership group," says Slewidge. "Let's see where it goes. History is what it is. Now we look to the future."

Slwidge regularly keeps her voice busy singing the anthem and other contemporary songs in her living room. So if the call ever came to return to the Canadian Tire Center, he would be willing to take the job without having to get rid of the rust.

“You train the vocal cords. I practice because it's who I am," says Slewidge. "I've been singing since I was nine years old. I am now 68 years old and in reasonably good health. I still sing just to keep things going."

Cindy often listens to her husband as he fills the living room with his rich singing voice. She believes he hasn't lost an ounce of enthusiasm or talent despite being out of the spotlight for over six years.

When asked if she thinks her husband can still perform on a big stage before an NHL game, Cindy gives a definitive answer.

"It would sound the same, if not better," says Cindy.

He then pats his own heart firmly, adding, "Because she's from around here."

(Photo by Lyndon Slewidge, October 25, 2014: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)


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