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Before Afghanistan, a bit of Boston as Bruins' anthem singer sends off troops at Pease

PORTSMOUTH -- Rene Rancourt may only take to the ice before the game, but after 37 years of singing the national anthem first at the Boston Garden and now at TD Garden, he has become a Bruins legend in his own right.

On Monday, Rancourt joined other members of the Bruins organization at Pease International Tradeport to greet 206 troops on their way from Fort Drum, N.Y., to Afghanistan.

With boundless energy, Rancourt posed for photos, chatted and laughed with Pease Greeters and troops and then sent them off with a rousing rendition of the national anthem.

Rancourt became even more famous after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15 for not singing. Early into the anthem, he stopped and the crowd at Boston Garden seamlessly took over in an illustration of the strong spirit of Boston.

He said he thought nothing could top the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, but being part of that experience, during the first professional sports game to be held in the city after the attacks, was something he said he will never forget.

Rancourt said he had no idea what to expect joining the Pease Greeters, and said he was overwhelmed by the kindness shown by everyone.

"It's a very touching thing," Rancourt said, adding that he was not sure he would get through the national anthem without getting emotional.

He said it was also one of the few times in his life when he felt humbled.

The Pease Greeters have been meeting arriving and departing troops at Pease International Tradeport since May 2005.

Pease Greeter Jim Conant of Hampton helped facilitate the visit by Rancourt, two of the team's "Ice Girls" and the Bruins' mascot, "Blades".

"They will have a really good patriotic feeling when they leave, and a feeling that they did something good today," Conant said about the visit.

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