Tuesday, April 04, 2006

O Canada!

“O Canada!”

I haven’t been able to get the Canadian national anthem out of my head since Sunday night.

Sporting my beige baseball cap, emblazoned with a red maple leaf, I sat down to dinner—a Smokehouse Turkey Panini—at Framingham’s Panera Bread. With my wife and an out-of-town guest, I noticed a familiar, yet bespectacled, face. A slender, middle-aged man walked to a table next to the full-length window. His hair seemed a lighter color than what I had been accustomed to, but it was still combed front to back in the style I recognized.

Nah, couldn’t be Rene Rancourt. Could it? Maybe it was the Bruins’ longtime national anthem singer. He looked smaller in person than when I’ve seen him on TV, in his tuxedo, belting out a national anthem or two. How could he not seem smaller and less animated, outside the spotlight, sitting at his table some 60 feet away from us?

I could see only his forehead hair and didn’t want to be accused of stalking a man whose identify we had not yet determined.

“What if he leaves?” someone asked.

“We’ll tackle him,” I said. “On the count of three. One…two...

…I continued chowing on my Panini, stealing glances at his head for the next 20 minutes.

Show time. I “went to the bathroom”(wink wink) but didn’t dare stare at the man and his wife, still seated. But I did see him out of the corner of my eye and was 90% sure he was Rene. I wasn’t going to confirm that inside, while they finished dinner.

My wife served as a sentinel outside the door Rancourt would most likely exit while I stood on guard for our man with the perfect hair outside the main entrance.

He and his wife pushed open the door near my wife, who signaled me to prepare to launch the mission.

“Rene Rancourt!” I shouted from 20 feet away.

I caught him with his head down, and then he looked up toward me.

“No, I’m his son,” he said, as dusk descended. “He’s much older than me.” Then he smiled and walked toward me.

After I gushed and probably blushed when telling how him how I’ve admired his passion for performing from the red carpet at the Garden/FleetCenter/TD Banknorth Garden, I executed Rancourt’s signature right-handed (never the left) salute and subsequent fist-pump.

“You made my day!” he said, shaking my hand with just as much enthusiasm as if were singing in front of 17, 565 Bruins’ fans.

Rancourt then noticed the maple leaf on my cap, assumed the performer’s position, and sang the opening to “O Canada!”