Thousands of sports fans decided hockey could take a back seat to national affairs Thursday night, electing to postpone a contest between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers in order to watch President Bush's nationally televised speech.

The third period of the National Hockey League exhibition game was about to start as the stadium scoreboard announced that Bush's speech to Congress could be watched in the outer concourses.

But when the speech was taken off the scoreboard screen, the 19,117 fans booed in protest, eventually erupting into a chant. "Leave it on! Leave it on!" echoed throughout the Philadelphia arena. The protests turned to loud cheers when the speech was restored.

By the time Bush concluded his address 36 minutes later, the teams lined up to shake hands. The game was declared a 2-2 tie "out of respect for where the United States was headed in the near future."

In the speech's most dramatic moments, the fans roared — drowning out the applause that could be seen on the screen.

Spontaneous cheers of "USA! USA!" also rang out, and some fans could be seen waving flags.

During the moments Bush spoke, however, the arena was silent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.