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'Golden Pipes' on becoming Knights fan favorite, new bobblehead and career

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Carnell Johnson/Facebook
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Originally aired June 30, 2022


The National Hockey League just crowned a new champion, the Colorado Avalanche. For the first time in five years, the Vegas Golden Knights didn’t make it into the playoffs.

But there’s always next season. And the NHL Draft begins next week. And there’s always Carnell Johnson.

If you’ve been to a few Golden Knights games, there’s a good chance you’ve heard him sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

He’s a fan favorite singer who’s been dubbed “Golden Pipes,” and both fans and players consider him something of a good luck charm.

 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Nevada Public Radio (@nevadapublicradio)

 

His voice has been heard around the country on national hockey broadcasts, and for many fans, he’s an honorary member of the team.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Johnson said he's been singing as long as he can remember, singing along with cassette tapes in high school—"for the millennials and Gen Z-ers out there, those little rectangular things that you actually put in a little player."

For the past five years, he's sung the anthem at Las Vegas home games.

More than 1,000 people sent in auditions, and Johnson was picked. The first time was nerve wracking, he said. 

"I've been performing most of my life and I've had crowds of 1,000, couple thousand. And that's pretty nerve wracking. But when you have 18,000 people, and not to mention you're going on to a surface that's not meant to be stood on, so it's very slippery. And it's cold. So you have the nerves shaking. You're shaking because the temperature you're shaking because you don't want to fall," he said.

Now, even at local baseball games, the audience will yell, "knight!" ( as in "gave proof through the..."). It's commonplace across Southern Nevada.

"I think it's fantastic," Johnson said. 

But he's felt a deeper connection.

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs during the team's first season, Carrie Underwood offered to sing the anthem. Johnson didn't say anything, "but the city kind of went into an uproar and was like, 'No, no, we've got our guy, stay over there.' I washed my hands of it ... I'm not trying to go after Carrie Underwood."

Since the Golden Knights job, Johnson has performed the national anthem for several other Vegas teams: Aces, Aviators, Lights, Nighthawks. He was even the first official national anthem singer at a Las Vegas Raiders game.

The gig has even gotten him his own bobblehead, which is coming out soon. 

Carnell "Golden Pipes" Johnson, national anthem singer, Vegas Golden Knights

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Kristen Kidman is the senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She oversees and writes State of Nevada’s online and social media content.