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Hockey is Healing

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Hockey provides an avenue for healing in the wake of tragic events

Andrew Burton

At the time of this writing it's been less than 24 hours since the first shots were fired at the War Memorial and I don't really think the full scope of yesterday's events have sunk in completely, but already the healing has begun.

When terrible things like this happen, the hockey community comes together at all levels. We saw it from the other teams last night with the singing of "O Canada" in Pittsburgh1 before an all-American match-up, with almost all eyes locked on the scoreboard screens trying to sing along with another country's anthem. We saw it with the moment of silence in Edmonton, and again in Anaheim.  Hockey is a family, they say, and we see it demonstrated time and time again.

We saw it from the fans yesterday, all over social media, and in the comments section for our own post about the game being postponed. When something like this happens to your home town, these kinds of responses from around the world really do mean a lot.

Wednesday's game against Toronto was postponed, and that was the right decision on many levels. It was the right decision on a public safety level, made when there were still far too many unknowns in an onging situation. It was the right decision from a competition standpoint, with the Leafs being stuck in their downtown hotel on lockdown for most of the day. It was the right move emotionally, with the city still too stunned to really enjoy the game - the mood at the CTC would have been downright somber at times if the game had gone ahead, and the hearts and minds of the players may well have been (understandably) elsewhere.

That was yesterday, though.  Hockey, and sports in general, can be healing. A cathartic experience. It can be a way to come together and bond in the aftermath, or a way for people to take their mind off of things for a few hours. It can be an emotional outlet, and a stage that can be used to show strength and support in the face of tragedy.  We will see that tomorrow night at the Ottawa Redblacks game, and again on Saturday night when the Senators host the Devils.

The eyes of most NHL fans will likely be on Ottawa to start things off on Saturday.  The pre-game will likely have an emotional tribute and a moment of silence for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a heartfelt thank you to honour those first responders who ran towards the danger rather than from it, and a strong, rousing rendition of "O Canada" to help show the world - and ourselves - that we are still loud and proud of who we are as Canadians.  Then when the lights come up it will be back to hockey, back to a little slice of normalcy.

It will be some time until Ottawa returns to a day-to-day type of normal, and I don't just mean the traffic snarls caused by closed streets downtown. But do not doubt that it will return to normal. For some of us, likely many, cheering for our hometown Senators will play a part in that process.


References
1. video.nhl.com - Pittsburgh sings "O Canada" in support of Ottawa