The tribute is small, but it is worth its weight in significance.
Yours truly spent four seasons covering hockey at Boston’s TD Garden before landing in the Motor City. On the press level of that building, located high, high, high above the ice, two things immediately stand out to first time visitors.
1) The best dessert cart in the sport, the envy of journalists in 29 other markets
2) The small plaque that marks Ace Bailey’s seat
As a Director of Pro Scouting for the Los Angeles Kings, Garnet Edward “Ace” Bailey was a regular in that press box. It was a hop, skip and a jump away from the team’s minor league operations in Manchester, New Hampshire, not to mention a short drive away from his Lynnfield, Massachusetts home.
Bailey is best known as a member of two Stanley Cup winning clubs with the Boston Bruins, scoring a crucial goal against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the 1972 Stanley Cup championship series. He spent two seasons sporting the Winged Wheel, a move that former Detroit coach Johnny Wilson told the Detroit Free Press, added muscle to his team. Upon retirement, Bailey played a key role in the Oilers 1980′s dynasty, most of which came by serving as an advance scout.
Ace Bailey, along with fellow Kings scout Mark Bavis, were killed when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. A moment that defined a generation had taken two of hockey’s own.
In the years that followed, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, a coach in Manchester at the time, revealed that he too was supposed to be on that flight, but was asked by Kings GM Andy Murray to be at a pre-training camp meeting in Los Angeles a day earlier. Boudreau tried to convince Bailey to change his flight and join him, but Ace didn’t want to hit the team with the $750 bill to do so.
Since that dreadful day, Bailey has been memorialized in many ways, including that plaque in the TD Garden Press Box. There is also a foundation that helps improve hospital programs for children. And the Kings honored Bailey by naming their ‘Most Inspirational Player’ award, and the team mascot after Ace.
Two other facts you may not have known about Bailey.
- Bailey was Wayne Gretzky’s first roommate in Edmonton.
- Ace met his wife Kathy, a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines, on a flight during his Bruins days.
None of us will ever forget where we were on September 11th, but is also important that we never forget who we lost. Though I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Bailey, seeing that plaque in the TD Garden Press Box makes me remember that day, its significance and what it meant at a very personal level.
It is a small token of appreciation, but one that will never be forgotten.
Jake Duhaime is the Manager of Social Networking for the Detroit Wings. Follow him on Twitter – @jakeduhaime