After more than 40 years behind the microphone, Bruins’ legendary anthem singer Rene Rancourt will retire at the end of the season. He will be honored by the team before the last game of the regular season, Apr. 8 against the Florida Panthers.
Rancourt has become a staple at Bruins’ home games. From his operatic renditions of the anthem to the multiple fist pumps to rile up the crowd, he has become a celebrity in the Hub of Hockey.
Like any other singer, Rancourt has his critics. That being said, the vast majority of Bruins’ fans adore him and the passion he brings. He’s been the catalyst for some of the most memorable moments in recent Bruins’ history.
He led the charge in a crowd-wide anthem sing-along at the Bruins’ game following the Boston bombings. He sang in both the Boston Garden and TD Garden, and serenaded the likes of Bourque, Janney, Thornton and more.
He’s a living legend among Bruins fans, and the lucky streak that got him to Boston just adds to his lore.
How Rancourt Got His Start
“It’s so much luck,” Rancourt said in an article from the Sun Journal.
Even before graduating high school in 1959, Rancourt was singing the national anthem at local games. His history teacher, Eleanor McCue, approached him during his final year of grade school. She asked him a simple question, which college did Rancourt dream to attend.
“I thought of the biggest college I could think of and said, ‘Boston University,’” Rancourt told the Sun Journal.
McCue arranged him an audition at Boston University, which led to a partial scholarship.
In 1969, Rancourt, who grew up listening to opera music, entered a singing contest on the radio. As has become routine for him, he dazzled the listeners. This earned Rancourt a spot in the GI travelling show, and helped him avoid being sent to Vietnam. He continued to serenade radio audiences with the travelling show over the next few years.
The magic of radio, however, is that you never know exactly who is tuning in.
One day, that magic proved itself. While he didn’t know it at the time, a man named John Kiley was listening that day. Kiley, the long-time organist at Fenway Park, liked what he heard from the aspiring opera singer.
He contacted Rancourt after the impromptu tryout, and asked him to sing at Red Sox games. He spent a few years with the club, before getting a huge opportunity in 1975. It was Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Legendary singer Kate Smith cancelled, and the Red Sox were in need of a fill-in performer. Rancourt was called upon, and filled in admirably, landing him a job on Causeway Street.
Rene’s Move to the Bruins
In 1976, Rancourt began singing the anthem for the Boston Bruins at the old Boston Garden.
Just like any other celebrity, however, he needed a signature move. For inspiration, he turned to Bruins’ role player Randy Burridge. Burridge gained the nickname “Stump” from his diminutive size, and developed a new goal celebration, called the “Stump Pump”.
The pump has followed Rancourt’s anthems for the past few decades, and he’s gotten creative with it. The importance of the game dictates the number of fist pumps. For playoff games, Rancourt is known to go as high as four, but that phenomenon is very rarely seen.
Plain and simply put, Rene Rancourt knows how to captivate a crowd. He’s become one of the signature aspects of a game at TD Garden. His unique style and infectious energy have brought Bruins fans to their feet since 1976. Despite all of the uncertainty in that position moving forward, one thing is for certain.
Whoever’s next in line has big shoes to fill behind the microphone.
Dan Bahl is a writer for The Hockey Writers, covering the Boston Bruins. Dan is a recent graduate of Quinnipiac University, and currently serves as the Lead Analyst of Quinnipiac Women’s Hockey on ESPN+. Dan has worked as the Head of Media Relations for the Valley Blue Sox, as well as a Media Relations Associate for the Hartford Yard Goats.