MONTREAL – Since 1960, Ginette Reno’s powerful voice has resonated in the hearts and minds of French Canadians. In the spring of 2014, to the joy of the Bell Centre faithful, Madame Reno accepted the invitation to belt out the national anthem before the home games of Quebec’s other great cultural icon, the Montreal Canadiens. Becoming the official voice of the team for the postseason, Reno has proven to be the Habs’ lucky charm, as the team has gone 3-0 with her as the opening act. Canadiens.com caught up with the multi-time Juno Award winner to talk about some of her favourite hockey-related memories.
How long have you been a fan of the Canadiens?
GINETTE RENO: Since my two sons were born. Growing up, they were always wearing clothes with the Habs logo on them. I would take them to the rink often. One of them was a goalie and the other was a defenseman. We would get to the rink and I would dress them before the sun came up, at 4:30 in the morning. I remember that people at the arena would often doze off while they were playing. It was early and everyone was really tired. Getting kids dressed was a lot of work!
Especially a goaltender?
GR: Absolutely. It wasn’t easy at all. After that, my kids would ask me to sing them the national anthem. So I sang the anthem for them. I’d ask them where and they’d say “right here, right now,” even if there were only four or five people in the stands. Back then when I sang my song L’Essentiel for them, I’d switch the words around and sing “It’s essential, to get the puck inside the net.” I used to sing that to them all the time.
That must have been special for them.
GR: Of course. But that was a long, long time ago.
What is your most vivid Canadiens-related memory?
GR: I have a photograph of this moment at home. When the team won the Stanley Cup in 1993, I went to the parade with some friends. I had sunglasses on and I cheered as the team passed by us in the streets.
Who is your all-time favourite Canadiens player?
GR: I love Guy Lafleur. In the olden days – because I’m an old-timer – I used to know all the players personally. Today, it’s different, but back then I knew all the players. From Boom-Boom (Geoffrion) to Jean Beliveau, and Henri Richard to Maurice Richard. I was an unconditional Maurice Richard fan. I sang for him at his retirement celebration. I sang at his funeral.
Do you come to the Bell Centre to catch hockey games very often?
GR: No. To be honest, I would much rather watch the game on television. Back in the day, I sat right behind the players’ bench and simply couldn’t follow the puck because the play was too fast, especially in the playoffs. It wasn’t a lot of fun. It’s much easier to watch on TV.
You ‘ve performed at the Forum, the Colisee and now at the Bell Centre. Which of those three arenas’ atmospheres had the biggest impact on you?
GR: It’s here, definitely. There is so much going on. The ambiance is fantastic.
You’ve done a lot of duets over your career. How different is it to sing with not one person, but with 21,273 other people?
GR: I was listening to the crowd as I went along. I wanted them to follow me, but let’s say that I was following them during the anthem, too.
With which current Habs player would you like to sing a duet?
GR: The goaltender, Carey Price.
Because of his voice?
GR: Because he’s exceptional. He is really, really good.
Finally, how does it make you feel to come out and sing before a Canadiens playoff game?
GR: It brings me a lot of joy. It’s wonderful each time, even though I get very nervous and feel like I’m doing this for the first time ever. It’s a big surge of adrenaline and a great feeling after you’re done.