MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An unexpected moment happened at the beginning of the Orono vs. Mound Westonka high school hockey game Tuesday night.
“Me and the guys were just standing there on the red line with our helmets, hand over heart, ready to participate in the anthem and then all of the sudden something else started playing,” said referee Chris Jessen, who decided to take it upon himself to grab a mic and start belting out the national anthem live and on the spot.
— White Hawk Hockey (@WhiteHawkHockey) March 3, 2021
Jessen couldn’t let tradition slide.
“I just love the whole pageantry of high school games,” said Jessen.
The game was an ice battle between rival high schools, Orono and Mound Westonka, but it was Jessen’s unexpected, live rendition of the national anthem that made for an ice breaker.
“The best part about it is the kids come and they [fist pump] you, all of a sudden there’s a little less animosity between me and the guys, it’s good,” said Jessen.
Jessen has been a referee Minnesota since he was 13 years old, but that’s not the long-term career he was expecting for himself. About 30 years ago, he tried to be a professional singer.
“I had one kid say, ‘You know you sound like Garth Brooks?’” said Jessen.
That comparison likely comes from where Jessen found his love for singing. He was a bull rider and would sing the national anthem at rodeos around the state. His twang never left and you can hear it in his singing today.
To be able to sing such an important song on the fly comes with experience, and Jessen has it.
“I used to sing anthems, like out at the St. Paul Saints games,” said Jessen.
While he has the professional singing background, that’s not the reason Jessen grabbed the mic at Tuesday’s game.
“There is so much craziness in the world right now, let’s just have some fun,” said Jessen.
After Tuesday’s performance, coaches for upcoming games Jessen is refereeing have asked him to sing the anthem live. He told WCCO he’s looking forward to it.