Commentary

9/11 memories from the hockey world

Updated: September 12, 2010, 1:44 PM ET
By James Murphy | ESPNBoston.com

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

September 11, 2001 is a day no one will ever forget. Our world forever changed and we all remember where we were when we heard the news. Each year on this day, as I imagine many do, I think back and remember where I was. But I also remember two members of the Boston hockey community were lost and the lasting impression they directly and indirectly left on me and many others. Here's my story of that day (part of which I wrote last year in a piece for NESN.com) and how, in response to the terror and tragedy, those who knew Garnett "Ace" Bailey and Mark Bavis have come together time after time to honor their memories.

Shortly after his death, Bailey's family formed the Ace Bailey Children's Foundation that focuses on the well-being of hospitalized children through the establishment and improvement of hospital programs, environments and professional services that reduce the stress of hospitalization for newborns, children and their families. The Floating Hospital for Children, part of Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, is the primary recipient of the foundation's funding.

"Ace adored kids. He was a big kid himself in many ways and kids just gravitated to Ace," Barbara Pothier, Bailey's sister and the executive director of the Ace Bailey Children's Foundation, told ESPN.com hockey columnist Scott Burnside in 2006.

"He wanted to play. That was Ace's thing," Pothier said.

Pothier described that same spirit I saw in Ace and it's great to see that still living on.

"Ace had such an incredible spirit," she said. "He had this intense need to make everyone around him happy. His spirit is here. We've kept his spirit alive in this room. Every day here, he's doing what he was doing when he was on this earth. The memory is always here anyways," Pothier added. "He's in our mind all the time. It just feels good to be putting his glow around. He is the wind in the sails of the foundation."

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of getting to know another great hockey scout with a similar sense of humor, Islanders pro scout Chris O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan, a Dorchester, Mass., native, was a freshman on the BU hockey team when Bavis was a senior captain. Bavis left a lasting impression on O'Sullivan, and ironically through a mutual friend, Kevin O'Sullivan (no relation to Chris), he became part of a project that would end up honoring Bavis' legacy in the Greater Boston hockey community.

Following his retirement from professional hockey and just prior to becoming a scout, O'Sullivan joined forces with Kevin and Boston-area lawyer Bob Norton to build the "Mark Bavis Ice Arena" in Rockland, Mass., that opened in October of 2004. On Friday and Saturday, the Global Hockey League made its debut at the "Mark Bavis Ice Arena" and Bavis was to be honored prior to the National Anthems. On Friday afternoon, O'Sullivan was choked up with emotion remembering the day he lost his close friend and mentor.

"I was in Switzerland playing and I remember after the game-day skate Kevin called me from back home and told me to turn on the TV," O'Sullivan recalled. "I watched it all unravel thinking I had to know someone and I was worried because my sister lived in New York. I found out though she wasn't in the city that day, thank God. But when I got back from the game I got the call about Mark. It's hard even now to think about that.

"But you know you think about the good things and Mark was just a great person. I always looked up to him and he was always there to help the younger guys like me. He was one of those guys that always tried to help others whether you were looked at as important or an outcast, he was there for you if you needed."

O'Sullivan has not only helped open a rink in honor of Bavis but also followed in his footsteps by becoming an NHL scout.

"Yeah, it's weird how that worked out, but those qualities in Mark that I tried to have -- being a great person and helping others -- is what you need to be a scout too and I'm happy I was able to join that fraternity and follow Mark. I'm also happy to be part owner of this rink that exemplifies Mark's passion for the game and helping the community."

Nine years later, these stories are just a couple of the thousands honoring those who were lost on September 11, 2001. As I do every year, I am remembering Bailey and Bavis as well as the many other victims and their families. Instead of getting caught up in the politics of the day, I am focusing on all the communities that came together to heal and create good from something so horrible. That is the lasting memory I have every September 11.

James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

James Murphy

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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