There are times when sports bring people together. Sports unify communities, cities, states, and nations. We are living in an extraordinary time in the world as the tragic events in Ottawa have shown.
The NHL made the right call to postpone the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators after the tragic shootings in Ottawa. Hockey was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind Wednesday. However, the National Hockey League carried on with the rest of the schedule Wednesday night.
It was a sight to see down in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins honored the victims of the shooting with a moment of silence and played the Canadian and United States National Anthems prior to the start of the game between the Flyers and Penguins. It was the first time in a long time that the anthems were must watch television.
Penguins’ anthem singer Jeff Jimerson performed “O’ Canada” with the help of the crowd inside Consol Energy Center. While most people did not know the words, they had help from the scoreboard as the words were scrolled across the screen. After he was finished with the anthem the sellout crowd of 19,758 cheered and applauded. It was a surreal scene.
It was a gesture to show that people in the United States were thinking about their brothers and sisters to the North. However, Canada was there for the United States back in 2001.Hockey along with so many other sports can unite people together as they share the love for the game no matter what the rivalry is.
This was not the first time this has happened in the world of sports.
In 2013, following the deadly Boston Marathon Bombings, the scene at Boston’s TD Garden was one of the most powerful scenes you will ever see in sports. Again, the Ottawa Senators were involved in that tragedy as well as they played the Boston Bruins. The crowd simple took over the national anthem, delivering a thunderous rendition that would bring chills to everyone who was watching.
The New York Yankees also honored the Boston Marathon victims as they displayed a sign outside their stadium. The Yankees insignia and the Red Sox’s traditional B stood on either side of a poster that read “United We Stand.” Twelve years prior, Red Sox fans sang, “New York, New York” after the September 11 terror attacks.
Hockey has shown not only with these two events, it can help with the healing process.
During the 2011 offseason, where former players Tom Cavanagh and Rick Rypien both committed suicide, Derek Boogaard died from a drug overdose and the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team perished in a crash, it was hockey that honored them with beautiful tributes and helped those people get back to the normal lives, even though nothing would be the same again.
Hockey not only helped with the healing process with these events, the sport of hockey along with other sports like baseball, America’s pastime, and football that helped heal a nation after the deadly terrorist attacks of 9/11.
When sports finally came back after a couple week hiatus, players from baseball to hockey now wore American flags on their jerseys. There were moments of silence for the victims. 9/11 was still fresh in everyone’s mind.
The wins and losses did not matter. It was entertainment. It was an escape from the horrors and reminders of such deadly events. Sports were something that allowed people to feel again, even if it was just for a short time.
Sports took on a more practical role after Sept. 11. Watching Monday Night Football or cheering on your favorite hockey team on Hockey Night in Canada each Saturday was a way to regulate or bring back some kind of structure to the week. It allowed people to forget the troubles and live life as if nothing happened, if for only a few hours.
At their best, sports allow us a chance to immerse ourselves, whether as players or spectators, in the thrill and drama of the spectacle unfolding. We play for the fun and love of the game. We watch for the thrill of it. And for a few short moments, we slip away from whatever problems this short life can bring us.
Sometimes we lose sight that it is just a game, falling into the trap of My Team vs. Your Team, obsessing about coaches’ decisions, and referees’ calls. But, the essence of sport is the capacity to entertain. Boston needed that. America needed that. Now Canada needs it too!
Sport is a universal language that can bring people together. Sports are a powerful tool to promote peace and understanding by bringing people together of different boundaries, culture and religion. Its inherent traits of fairness, discipline, and respect towards opponents are on display.
For one thing the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa will be a great place to be when the “O’ Canada” is sung Saturday night prior to the game between the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils.