10 Years Later: Memories of Kings Scouts Still Strong
Given the nature of how tight-knit sports teams are, the Kings organization lost two brothers tragically on Sept. 11 in Garnet "Ace" Bailey and Mark Bavis
Sept. 11, 2001, would be a busy day around the Kings‚ training facility in El Segundo. Coaches and staffers would be on the move for hours, helping out with players‚ medical examinations and, in general, preparing for the start of training camp the next day.
Bailey was scheduled to arrive at LAX from Boston late that morning. Pete Demers, the Kings‚ longtime trainer, knew this, and knew how Bailey -- with his ever-present tan and friendly smile -- loved to sit in the Southern California sun and get some exercise.
So at 5 a.m., before his work day began, Demers dragged a bike outside. Bailey would be pleased, Demers thought, to arrive in El Segundo and be able to take his daily spin.
Sixteen hours later, Demers quietly brought the bike back inside. Bailey didn't ride it. Didn't see it. Didn't make it to Los Angeles. Instead, he became a part of tragic history.
Garnet "Ace" Bailey, the Kings' director of pro scouting, and amateur scout Mark Bavis lost their lives that day, when terrorists hijacked their scheduled Boston-to-Los Angeles flight and crashed the plane into the south tower of New York's World Trade Center.
"I think the hardest thing for me that day was going back to the training center and putting the bike away"‚ Demers, now retired, said this week. "That bike stayed out there all day long. Then, about 9 o'clock that night, I went out and wheeled the bike back in and put it in its spot. That was it. Ace wasn't coming."
The Sept. 11 attacks caused the deaths of approximately 3,000 people and impacted the lives of families around the world. Given how easily sports teams embrace the idea of being a tight-knit extended family, the Kings felt the loss of two brothers that day.
Ten years later, the bond remains. Kings players wear a helmet decal honoring Bailey and Bavis, and during practice they skate past a banner featuring the men's initials. Portraits of Bailey and Bavis are hung prominently in the hallway of the Kings' offices. Bailey, the Kings' mascot, is named in honor of the former NHL winger and scout.
This year, the Kings will hold their annual Hockey Fest fan event on Sept. 11. Proceeds from an autographed-jersey auction will go to benefit the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firefighters Fund and the day will start with a tribute to Bailey and Bavis.
It will be a day of memories for those who were part of the team 10 years ago.
"That was a tough day for the Kings organization, for sure, and probably the toughest day I've ever had in the hockey business"‚ Dave Taylor, who served as Kings general manager then, said this week. "Probably the toughest day I've ever had."
As the 2001 season arrived, Bailey and Bavis were at different stages of their careers, with Bailey, 53, as the seasoned pro and Bavis, 31, as the youngster on the rise.
Both men had playing backgrounds. Bavis was drafted by the New York Rangers in the ninth round in 1989 and played three seasons in the AHL and ECHL before he briefly joined the coaching ranks, at Harvard and in the junior-level North American League.
Bavis joined the Kings in 2000 and made an impact. Bavis' responsibilities included scouting NCAA hockey, and in June 2001 -- Bavis' only draft as a member of the Kings' staff -- the Kings used first-round draft picks on a pair of college kids, at Bavis' urging.
The Kings took David Steckel in the first round and Michael Cammalleri in the second round. Both players are still thriving in the NHL. Bavis helped give them their start.
"He had a good eye," Taylor said. "He understood the game and he worked hard at it. I think he would have had a tremendous future. He just had a passion for hockey."
Bavis worked as an amateur scout but still had a good relationship with Bailey, who had spent 32 years in the NHL as a player or scout, including seven as the Kings' director of pro scouting. Bailey won Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins in 1970 and 1972.
Taylor remembered Bailey as a natural leader, a man who colleagues would rally around, a friendly but take-charge personality who would run serious, organized meetings and then gather everyone at a restaurant for a good meal and some laughs.
"He was just one of those guys who had an outgoing personality and a lot of life, and just really enjoyed himself," Taylor said.
Both men made their offseason homes in Massachusetts, and the second week of September 2001 meant the start of training camp in Los Angeles, a time and place when all the scouts came together for meetings and to evaluate players.
That Tuesday morning, Bailey and Bavis boarded a Boeing 767, which pushed away from a gate at Boston's Logan International Airport just before 8 a.m. Eastern time.
At that moment, roughly 2,500 miles away, Demers started work. As the Kings‚ head trainer, he would have a busy day, overseeing the medical examinations of more than 60 players at a hotel ballroom in El Segundo. First, though, Demers thought of Bailey.
"We had a little outdoor area by the weight room, and Ace loved that," Demers said. "I knew he was coming, so I took a bike and I wheeled it outside. It was still dark outside. I put a sign on it: 'Ace.' That was Ace's bike, that he was going to ride. ... Then I left and went to the hotel for the medicals, and then things started to unfold."
As the Kings‚ staff worked, news from the East trickled in. A plane hit the World Trade Center. Then a second plane. One of the flights had come from Boston.
Immediately, the news brought an ominous feel to the Kings' office. Scouts were scheduled to arrive that day from all parts of the world, and all of their travel had been coordinated by John Wolf, the Kings' longtime assistant to the general manager.
Wolf knew that Bailey and Bavis had been booked on United 175, on one of the planes that, according to widespread media reports, had crashed into the World Trade Center. Officially, the Kings couldn't be 100-percent certain. Taylor made repeated calls to United Airlines and, for hours, was told only that the flight was "missing."
Everyone hoped for the best -- Maybe a late reservation change? Maybe the guys overslept? -- but before long, Taylor could no longer avoid the staggering truth.
"I called both guys' cell phones a number of times over the course of the day, just sort of hoping that they would answer," Taylor said. "But I never heard back, and when I talked to Kathy Bailey [Ace's wife], she said, 'Dave, I know Ace was on that plane. I dropped him off at the airport.' It was just so sad and so devastating for everybody."
Wolf quietly broke the news, to Demers and other staff members, that Bailey and Bavis had been among the victims. The task of announcing the scouts' death fell to Taylor.
"I addressed the team," Taylor said. "I broke the news to them about what had happened, that we had lost two family members on that flight. I had a real hard time speaking, and [then-coach] Andy Murray actually cut the meeting short at that point."
Taylor's message, while brief, was poignant. It was a tribute not only to Bailey and Bavis but to all the scouts, all the men who work hard, countless hours -- living out of suitcases, scarfing down fast food, away from their families for weeks at a time.
Taylor wanted the players to know that while the scouts don't spend much time around the team during the season, they remain part of the extended family of an NHL team.
"That was monumental, for him to have to tell everybody that we lost two of our guys," Demers said. "It was the most courageous thing Dave Taylor ever had to do."
Bailey and Bavis have legacies that live on, through foundations in their names. The Ace Bailey Children's Foundation -- www.acebailey.org -- seeks to build and renovate space in hospitals to make them more comforting to young patients. The Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation -- www.markbavisleadershipfoundation.org -- raises money in order to award grants to students for tuition and extracurricular activities.
In interviews with FoxSportsWest.com, Kathy Bailey and Bavis‚ twin brother, Mike -- associate head coach at Boston University -- expressed the challenges of having to grieve the loss of loved ones as part of such a well-known, public event.
There's also legal action pending. Bavis' family has a lawsuit pending against United Airlines, seeking monetary compensation because of alleged security flaws. In an ironic twist, the case is scheduled to go to trial in November, 10 years after Bavis' death.
"I can‚t speak for all the families, but for me personally, for my family, it's something we live with every day," Mike Bavis told FoxSportsWest.com. "It doesn't have a meaning in terms of sixth year, eighth year, 10th year. It's what we deal with. But the things you've locked away, that you've tried to bury, come back every September."
Around the continent, Bailey and Bavis will be remembered, by Demers from his family cottage in Nova Scotia and by Taylor in St. Louis, where his current team will be preparing for the start of training camp, just as the Kings did 10 years ago.
"Not a day goes by when I don't think about those two guys," Demers said. "When you lose people like that, it effects you forever."