Saturday, September 09, 2006

2,996 - A loving memory of "Ace".


I am a hockey fan. It dominates the better part of my life, especially between the months of September and June. After the calendar flips past Labor Day, I know that training camp is but a few short days away, and I eagerly anticipate it beginning, as I know that the official start of the season will be upon us before we know it.

Five years ago, the start of training camp was much like the start of any other training camp in any other previous year. Players and team officials traveled to join their teams, fans (like me) eagerly anticipated the start of a new season, and all was well. We thought.

It was September 11, 2001. The New York Rangers were in the Big Apple readying for their first skate after too long of a summer, and the Los Angeles Kings were going to start camp on the 12th. Most other teams would take up their first official practices within the next 3 or 4 days.

Two scouts for the Los Angeles Kings were departing Boston for Los Angeles on this beautiful morning. Mark Bavis and Garnet “Ace” Bailey. Getting ready to go on about their lives and their jobs, just like everyone else that day.

They never made it.

They were passengers on United Flight 175 that morning. They were 2 of the 2,996 that my fellow bloggers and I are trying to memorialize on this, the 5th anniversary of September 11th.

I am honored, deeply honored, to be memorializing Garnet “Ace” Bailey.

Garnet Edward "Ace" Bailey was born on June 14, 1948, in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. I’ve heard that the only person to call him by his given name was his first professional hockey coach, famed Boston Bruins bench boss Harry Sinden

I was aware of him even prior to September 11, 2001. He was once upon a time a player for my hometown Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League. In the age when those Blazers were the farm team for the Boston Bruins, he spent 45 games playing for and in “my” city over 2 seasons. I wasn’t even close to being alive during those seasons, but in my heart, you’re “once a Blazer, always a Blazer”, so I’ve always had a special place in my heart for anyone that has played here, including Ace.

“Ace” had bigger fish to fry, though, and they weren’t going to jump in the pan here in Oklahoma City. Most of his hockey career was spent in the NHL, over 14 seasons, playing for the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, and Washington Capitals, and the Edmonton Oilers, then of the World Hockey Association. He had the joy of playing with an unimaginable cast of future Hall of Famers over those 14 seasons, spanning Bobby Orr to Wayne Gretzky, and countless others in between.

He scored 107 goals and registered 171 assists in his 568 NHL games, finding the opportunity to work in 2 Stanley Cups (with Boston) in those 14 seasons. Although much of his playing career was spent on the bench, he was known as a fearless protector of his teammates. In hockey, you have your roles, and “Ace” knew his. Look out for the stars, and keep them shining brightly.

After retiring as a player, he coached for a couple of years in the Edmonton minor-league system, then found a new calling – professional scout. First with Edmonton for 13 years – where he earned 5 more Stanley Cups in the front office, then following Wayne Gretzky, to Los Angeles where he would spend the next 8 years searching for the “next big thing” to bring over to the Kings.

I knew of “Ace” because of hockey. I know he had a life away from that, however. He was married to Katherine, and they had a son named Todd. He loved cooking. He loved to be around others and have a good time. I’ve heard he always had a smile on his face, and that he loved participating in charity events that benefited children. He loved giving, of himself and his time. I’ve heard he made his autograph resemble a smile, with a curved cross-bar in the “A” and 2 dots. Sometimes, it’s the small things that mean the most, like this.

His legacy is now his foundation, which you can see at www.acebailey.com and “Ace’s Place”, the playroom at Boston’s Floating Hospital for Children. His widow Katherine said in a recent interview with ESPN.com, that, "It's always been important for me to hold onto Ace and hold onto him tight. You don't forget about it. It doesn't go away. Ace had such an incredible spirit. He had this intense need to make everyone around him happy. His spirit is here. We've kept his spirit alive in this room."

On this, the 5th anniversary, please keep not only Ace’s spirit alive, but that of the other 2,995 souls we lost as well. Not all were as close to greatness or in the public eye as Ace, but they all were someone’s Ace Bailey. Their smile, their incredible spirit, their spouse, their parent, their child…

Thank you for reading about Ace. If you can find the time, please read more tributes that others have so lovingly created. You can find their links at 2996 .

Above all, don't ever forget. Don't forget them, but don't dwell on what happened or how it happened. Remember who they were and what they all meant to us, but not how they left us. Remember what they left us.

14 Comments:

Blogger Sunshine36616 said...

Bravo! Great job. My husband and I are hockey fans, too.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Very nice tribute. I have the tribute to Mark and I've linked to yours in it. It's awesome and humbling how the deaths of these two men could not stop their positive influences on the world.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Schizo319 said...

Awesome! Your last paragraph left me in tears!

12:53 PM  
Blogger Random me said...

Beautiful tribute!

1:35 PM  
Blogger hayjaker said...

Your tribute is very personal and well done. Thank you

12:11 AM  
Blogger Monica said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Monica said...

Thank you for sharing that moment in time in both your lives that lead up the those events.
thanks for sharing.
(I deleted a post because of my spelling)

11:56 AM  
Blogger MamaKaren said...

This is a wonderful tribute. My sister found one of Ace's autographed hockey cards last year, which resulted in this post, so you can see his smiling signature up close.

2:50 PM  
Blogger the Pirate said...

Nice job honoring him, I still rememebr the tribute season to Ace and Mark when the players wore an "AM" badge on the jerseys all season.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Pirate, I'm not a follower of hockey, so I never knew that. That's really... well, I just don't have the words. I'll have to make a note of that on my tribute.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Teena said...

Thank you for honouring a fellow Canadian. I honoured three men from the Toronto area (I live in Toronto).

4:24 PM  
Blogger Sword of Truth said...

I'm an Edmonton native, lived here nearly all my life. I confess I'm not much of a hockey fan, but there's nobody in this town, me included, who wouldn't bend over backwards for the Oilers.

God Bless Ace, his family and our troops in Afghanistan taking the fight to the enemy.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I just notice how much he looks like Dennis Quaid.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Teena in Toronto said...

I thought you might be interested in reading 10 year anniversary tribute in "The Toronto Star" about Ace.

9:42 PM  

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