MERRILLVILLE | Eight hours before the puck hit the ice Saturday at the United Center, the official singing voice of the Chicago Blackhawks reverberated off classic and custom cars in a Merrillville parking lot.
Jim Cornelison, the hockey team's national anthem singer, performed the Star-Spangled Banner at the 18th annual Elim Christian Car Show, a fundraiser to benefit Elim Christian Services, a Palos Heights, organization that offers educational, vocational and therapeutic programming for adults and children with disabilities.
Tom Van Prooyen, an owner of Schepel Buick GMC, where the benefit took place, thought when the Blackhawks made the playoffs that Cornelison would back out of his commitment to sing at the fundraiser.
"It shows what kind of guy he is," Van Prooyen said.
The Lake County Pipes and Drums played, and the Lake County Sheriff's Department Honor Guard presented the colors. Then Cornelison sang.
"Everyone was yelling and clapping, just as it is at the (United Center) stadium," said Cedar Lake resident Rob Van Kuiken, who brought his children Dawn and Brad Van Kuiken to the fundraiser. "I thought it was awesome. He does the anthem right."
Dawn Van Kuiken said Cornelison's performance gave her chills, just as when she watches Blackhawks games on TV.
It was the second time Brad Van Kuiken met Cornelison. He had joined the vocalist on the ice as a representative of the military during the national anthem at the Feb. 13, 2010, game.
Before and after his performance, Cornelison posed for photos and signed autographs.
"It's a lot of fun," he said.
A trained opera singer, he said he was not worried the morning performance at the car dealership would ruin his voice for his performance before the Blackhawks played the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Cornelison, who is in his fourth season as the full-time national anthem singer for the Blackhawks, said he gets as anxious as the fans during the games.
"I sing the anthem, then go sit in the seats and chew my nails like everybody else," he said.