Rene Rancourt's National Anthem at Bruins Game Helps Boston Heal

Mike BatistaContributor IApril 18, 2013

Rene Rancourt has sung the national anthem at Boston Bruins games since 1976.
Rene Rancourt has sung the national anthem at Boston Bruins games since 1976.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

There's nothing like a little Rene Rancourt to lift a city's spirits.

On Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres played the first professional sporting event in Boston since the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday.

Rancourt, just like he always has at Bruins home games since 1976, began singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Then he let the crowd take over.

Rancourt led the fans through the rest of the national anthem, and TD Garden burst to the rafters with patriotism.

His performance Wednesday aided Boston's healing process as well as my own.

While I feel the same sadness, despair and resolve I felt after Sept. 11, 2001, I take this act of terror personally. I've lived in Boston and I ran the Boston Marathon.

Even though I’m admiring this moment from afar, I grew up in Rhode Island, less than an hour from Boston. Rancourt was a voice of my childhood and has made a couple of surprise in-person appearances in my adulthood.

During the late 1990s, I covered the Mount St. Charles Academy hockey team for the Woonsocket Call in Rhode Island. Mount St. Charles sent players such as Bryan Berard, Mathieu Schneider, Keith Carney, Garth Snow and Brian Boucher to the NHL. The Mounties won the Rhode Island high school state championship every year from 1978 to 2003.

During the Christmas holiday one year, Mount St. Charles hosted a tournament featuring some of the top high school hockey programs in the country.

This wasn’t exactly TD Garden. On a hill in an old New England mill town, Adelard Arena was a chilly hockey rink where you could smell the sweat.

As I stood in the press box before the tournament final, the boards at the far end of the ice opened up and in walked Rancourt. He sang the national anthem, added his signature fist pump and off he went.

It made me feel kind of big-time to be covering an event where Rancourt sang the national anthem.

About a decade later, after moving to New York, my father bought us tickets to the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, so I came home for a visit.

The Patriots are excluded from my rooting interests as a Boston sports fan. I’ve cheered for the Steelers since they won their fourth Super Bowl in 1979. Unfortunately, I was there to see the Steelers get pounded in their two previous visits to Foxboro, Mass.

On that late-autumn afternoon in 2008, it was a thrill just to be attending a Steelers game for only the fourth time in my life. Then out came Rancourt to sing the national anthem, and the day became even more special.

The Steelers defeated the Patriots 33-10, winning at New England for the first time in almost 11 years. The Steelers became legitimate Super Bowl contenders with that win, which makes me cherish that day even more in hindsight. Two months later, they won Super Bowl XLIII.

When I was a child, my father also took me to see the Red Sox and Celtics, teams that unlike the Patriots actually play in Boston.

My father worked in Boston and on Saturdays would drive my sister and I to work with him. When he turned off I-95 onto I-93, the Prudential Center and the John Hancock Tower would come into view.

The sleek, all-glass Hancock Tower and the blocky Pru give the city its skyline. They are Boston’s twin towers.

Although the notion that Boston is the hub of the universe is quaint and out-dated, it was the only big city I knew growing up.

My affinity for Boston was part of the reason I decided to attend Emerson College. Seven Emerson students were injured in Monday’s bombing, according to

While at Emerson, I watched classmates finish the Boston Marathon, and I thought maybe I could do that.

Not long after I graduated and moved back to Rhode Island, the running bug officially bit me.

In 1995 I unofficially ran the Boston Marathon. You can’t just sign up to get a number for the Boston Marathon. You either have to run a qualifying time at another sanctioned marathon or you have to do it for charity. I did neither, which made me a “bandit” runner.

It took me 4 hours, 13 minutes. As I shuffled toward the finish line on Boylston Street, my father called my name. He was at the front of the crowd on the sidewalk. I saw him and raised my arms in victory. I was going to finish the Boston Marathon.

How lucky I was to cross that line without any fear, without wondering what just happened. Some runners and their families wouldn’t be so lucky 18 years later.

Not only were three lives lost, but hundreds of others won’t be the same. The aftermath in some cases will be gruesome.

This was an act of hate. How do we get people to stop wanting to hurt others?

It’s not easy, but the communal spirit at Wednesday’s Bruins game is a good place to start.