The Stanley Cup Semi-Final is coming back to Chicago after two games in the Sun Belt.
The Windy City crowd is likely to be a noisy and boisterous one – as is the case with all Chicago sports.
It is a unique setting in the Hawks home rink, but, these days, a little less unique.
You see, back in the days, the Chicago Stadium offered up a one of a kind home-ice advantage. There were many reasons, ranging from the shorter ice surface to the cryptic time clock. But one of the biggest factors at the stadium was the mighty pipe organ.
The famous 3,663-pipe Barton organ boasted the world’s largest theater organ console with 6 manuals (keyboards) and over 800 stops, with thousands of pipes and percussions installed in the center ceiling high above the ice surface.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was the organist to open the Chicago Stadium and introduce the gigantic organ to the world. He and his wife were staff organist at radio station WLS and through the relationship with the Barton organ were known to Dan Barton. When Barton was designing the stadium organ he called on Emerson to assist in the design and oversee the installation. Emerson and his wife were appointed staff and assistant organists when the stadium opened. Al Melgard, who worked for Barton as an organ instructor and demonstrator and was no doubt associated with the stadium organ from the beginnings. At some time in the thirties Al became the staff organist. At one event when Al was on duty at the console, a riot broke out caused by an unpopular decision following a boxing match. Al threw on all the stops and played a rousing version of the National Anthem which helped quell the rioters and also shattered light bulbs and windows in the cavernous stadium. Expecting dismissal because of the damage, Al was instead rewarded with the promise of a lifetime position.Al Melgard continued at the console for over four decades. After he retired several other organists followed him at the huge six manual, but it was never the same as during the Melgard years. In the eighties in became apparent that the stadium building could no longer compete with the mega-arenas built-in other cities and plans for a new arena were drawn up. Initially plans included platforms for the pipe organ chambers, but as building plans progressed, stadium owner William Wirtz, with the encouragement of his staff organist decided against moving the pipe organ to the new United Center Stadium.