Commentary

Conflicting emotions for Bailey family

Updated: May 2, 2011, 4:08 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

When Barbara Pothier glanced up at Garnet "Ace" Bailey's picture Monday morning, she felt conflicted.

"I have to say, I've never had the experience of being glad that someone was dead," Pothier, Bailey's sister-in-law, said after awaking to learn that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden had been killed by an American special forces operation in Pakistan. "It's a conflicting group of emotions. But looking at Ace's picture this morning, it made you feel good for Ace and for all the people [bin Laden] killed.

Ace Bailey
Ace Bailey Children's FoundationAfter winning two Stanley Cups as a player, Ace Bailey won five more as a scout with the Edmonton Oilers.

"I say, I'm glad they got the bastard because that's what Ace would have said."

Bailey, a longtime NHL player and highly respected scout, was on United Airlines Flight 175 out of Boston's Logan Airport on Sept. 11, 2001. He and fellow Los Angeles Kings scout Mark Bavis were bound for Los Angeles for the start of training camp when their plane was hijacked and sent into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Bailey's widow, Katherine, went to bed Sunday night without hearing the news. In the early morning hours, she was awakened by a reporter and immediately feared something had happened to her son or another family member or friend. Instead, she learned that the man who was the mastermind behind the death of her husband was dead.

"I'm glad he's gone, I'm glad he's gone," she told ESPN.com on Monday morning. "It really conjures up a whole lot of feelings today."

In the almost 10 years since Bailey died, Katherine and Barbara have worked tirelessly to turn Ace's memory into something positive and meaningful through the establishment of the Ace Bailey Children's Foundation. They began by creating Ace's Place, an area where children and family can gather at the Floating Hospital for Children, part of the Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

The foundation has also created a family facility connected to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit and is working on a new project to make the pediatric emergency department more family-friendly.

It's a conflicting group of emotions. But looking at Ace's picture this morning, it made you feel good for Ace and for all the people [bin Laden] killed. I say, I'm glad they got the bastard because that's what Ace would have said.

-- Barbara Pothier, Garnet "Ace" Bailey's sister-in-law

"When I walk into Ace's Place, I still have that sense of, 'How did we do that?'" Katherine said.

At a recent fundraiser, the family was pleased to receive an unexpected visitor, Wayne Gretzky, who was once upon a time a teammate of Bailey's in Edmonton. Gretzky lived with the Bailey family and told ESPN.com during an earlier interview he felt more like a son to Bailey than a teammate.

The hockey community has continued to be a staunch supporter of the foundation and that sense of community has been important, not just to the charitable work the foundation does, but also to the Bailey family.

As positive as her experiences have been with Ace's Place, though, Katherine and Barbara are never far removed from emotional reminders of the loss they and other victims of the terrorist attacks have endured. They have also become close to the Bavis family as a result of their shared tragedy.

"They suffer so much from Mark's loss," Pothier said.

Katherine has already been asked about participating in 10-year anniversary events.

"You have to learn to live with what you've been handed," she said. "But anything that brings you back into that place that you've worked so hard to get out of [can be difficult]."

But with the news of bin Laden's death, Katherine Bailey now hopes she will soon no longer see bin Laden's picture on television screens, in newspapers and on the Internet.

"I can't begin to tell you the visceral reaction I have whenever I turn and see his face," she said.

"I thought they handled it beautifully by getting rid of his body," Pothier added.

Both Katherine and Barbara said their relief at bin Laden's death was tempered by fears that the operation would prompt a backlash of terrorist activity.

"I'm not quite as jubilant as a lot of people," Katherine said. "It's just a strange day."

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.