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Monday, 12 September 2011

Hockey after 9/11

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the NHL had many concerns of their own. The Montreal Canadian captain Saku Koivu had recently been diagnosed with cancer...... The major trades that brought Jaromir Yagr to the Washington Capitals and Eric Lindros to the New York Rangers, would end up and how they had saved a big issue with the referees with a recently signed deal.
But later that day at 9:03 am- the issues of the NHL seemed unimportant, because this day for once, America had no concern with sport.

Word quickly spread after the World Trade Center and the pentagon were attacked by 3 hijacked planes, There was confusion, pain and disbelief looks on the faces of all. But later news broke of a fourth plane headed for the white house and president at the time George Bush, was brought down into a field near Pennsylvania by the brave souls on flight 93. Which despite the deaths of all on-board, saved thousands of more innocent lives.

We lost member of the hockey community that day; we lost players; of all levels, coaches, parents, fans and family. That day, affected all generations and all races of people all demographics of all people. Now a decade later, people argue and debate how these attacks changed the world... but there is no doubt about the fact, that the world was changed.
In the days after this horrible even everyone had to adjust; government, families, business, and every individual. The National Hockey League was no exception to the shock and devastation!

The Victims

Some may remember Garnet "Ace" Bailey, Bailey played in the NHL from 1968-1980. He won 4 Stanley cups; 2 each with the Boston Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers respectively. Unfortunately on September 11, 2001 Bailey was on flight 175 which hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Garnet Bailey was just 53 years young! At the time of his death Bailey was the head scout for the Nashville Predators, he along with assistant scout Mark Bavis both perished in the attacks.

How about St. Lawrence University's rookie of year winners of 1988 Mike Pelletier and Richie Stewart. The two men shared an office at Cantor Fitzgerald headquarters. The headquarters was located just 6 floors away from where the plane crashed into one of the towers. All people in the office died that day including Pelletier and Stewart.

Don't remember Bailey or Pelletier and Stewart? How about current Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. Now you may be thinking to yourself that Boudreau is still alive and coaching, yes that is true.. but did you know that Bruce Boudreau was supposed to be on flight 175. The flight that hit the South Tower in the attacks. Countless other who had played the game at some point perished that horrible day; including Lenny Taylor and Welles Crowther, both players were exceptional high-school hockey players. Thousands other who were fans of the NHL were lost.

People who made it alive

Robert Cimetta a first round draft pick of the Boston Bruins (18th overall). Cimetta played 103 NHL career games between the Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cimetta was on the 61st floor of the South Tower and managed to escape, before the collapse of the Tower. His NHL career was cut short due to injuries. Cimetta released this statement to the Globe and Mail; "As Cimetta raced down the stairs, he wondered whether he was heading into the fire. "It felt like we were animals inside a burning barn," he said. "My heart was racing. My knees were shaking. Women were screaming. I thought I was going to die." In total it took 23 minutes for Cimetta to get from the 61st floor to "ground zero" He emerged through a subway exit, to find a engine of a jet surrounded by police tape.

Stuart Fraser who is a major owner of the CHL Fort Worth Brahmas survived the attacks, by working from home on September 11, 2001. Fraser who was vice chairman of Cantor Fitzgerald.

Bother Fraser and Cimetta have helped raise money for victims and families of 9/11.

NHL's turn.

September11, 2001 the NHL headquarters in New York City was evacuated at 2 pm. With training camp and pre-season right around the corners, the majority of players/teams were together on September 11. The next step was how to move on in a respectable and safe manor. Following suit of the professional leagues... NFL and NBA; the NHL cancelled 11 pre-seasn games of September 15.
"Of course, that raised the question of when the appropriate time was for hockey, pro football or any sport to resume. "I don't think there is ever a right time," Recchi said. "But you can't put everything on hold [permanently]. The President said it best. The country has got to show up. But there has to be a period of grieving. I don't think there is any question about that."

The National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) was first to the party in sense of charitable interactions to the victims of 9/11. NHLPA donated $500,000 (USD) to aid the families that lost firefighter and policemen.
The New York Rangers were visiting local fire houses in the area The Detroit Red Wings donated blood during their training camp. The Los Angeles Kings donated all proceeds form their September 18th exhibition game against the ducks. to aid relief named honor of Bailey and Bavis.
With the games returning a week after 9/11, many hoped things would go back to normal. But the atmosphere at the games was completely different. The security was taken up several notches, searches of bags, banning some types of them from the buildings. Metal detectors were put in use for certain games, and pat-downs of fans were more frequent. The fact that a hockey arena could be an easy target for a terrorist attack went from a distant nightmare to a very real possibility.

Many different team gave tribute to the fallen from September 11, 2001.
The first major sporting event held in the city after the attacks was September 20, a New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils hockey game, 5000 fans were in attendance. they painted "United We Stand" on the ice near the blue lines and removed the advertisement around the boards to read ""Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all injured and lost, New York's Finest and Bravest, all volunteers and rescue workers."

Even the Toronto Maple Leafs paid tribute to the fallen at their first game back at the ACC on September 22th there was a bagpipes rendition of "Amazing Grace" and then a surprising first; a standing ovation for the American National Anthem.

But the biggest most impressive ovation, came from the fans at a hockey game, who choose a speech from then president George Bush over the 3rd period of the New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers. it was Sept. 21 at the First Union Center in Philidalphia when Bush made a speech addressing the nation. Bush's speech started at the end of the second, players, fans and coaches all wanted the speech and audio played in the building.
From the Daily News
The men who run the Flyers obliged, continuing to show President Bush address Congress on the center video board rather than play the third period, which was canceled.
Equally stunning was Flyers fans raucously cheering not only the sight of the Mayor of New York and the words "We will rebuild New York City," but then again when the third period of a rollicking game with the hated Rangers was called off and replaced by a handshake line at center ice.
After briefly loosening up to begin the third period, players from both teams headed to the bench when the sizable crowd booed when President Bush's speech was cut off, forcing the return of the address. They then sat, either on their benches or propped on the dasher boards, in rapt attention, for 35 minutes, moving only to tap sticks on the boards in applause.

This moment showed how during the weeks after 9/11 sport never mattered less to the Americans.

Shortly after the regular season had started p for the 2001/2002 NHL season, but that didn't mean the tributes had to stop. Every NHL made a tribute of some sort to the events that happened weeks before 9/11. Some wore commemorative patches. October 4, the Kings gave Ace Bailey's son Todd Bailey a team jersey. On October 7, the Rangers opened their season against the Buffalo Sabres. This resulted in a 30 minute ceremony to honor they NYPD and FDNY members who lost their lives. with members of those teams skating out to form a human tunnel through which the Rangers appeared in the ice. Mark Messier was asked to don the helmet of Ray Downey, the FDNY's Chief of Special Operations who perished at Ground Zero. It was a special moment for Messier who was truly touched.

America always can come together to honor one another. Sport is a great way to numb the pain of the real world. It allows us to just take a step back and be distracted for even a moment. There is no doubt 9/11 changed the way Americans think and act, it has led to great prejudice, and many fears. Now many people are including myself are afraid to fly. They think twice about who their neigh boughs are or co- workers. But through sport American can come together. We remember the great tragedy of 9/11 with the death of the Lokomotive KHL hockey team. The teams plane crashed shortly after take off and all players died. The lone survivor of the team passed away this morning after having 90% of his body severally burned.

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