For the better of the 1990s and early 2000s, I spent a lot of time around the New England college hockey arenas as well as the arenas of the American Hockey League’s Providence, Worcester, Lowell, and Hartford franchises. I met many interesting people along the way, including some to whom I still speak today. Sadly, two of the people I enjoyed speaking to about hockey are no longer with us.
Mark Bavis and Garnet “Ace” Bailey were both passengers on United Airlines Flight 175, which was crashed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower by Islamic extremists who hijacked the airplane. The two were scouts for the Los Angeles Kings and were headed to California for team meetings and the opening of training camp.
I had heard of Mark Bavis many times before I actually met him. We grew up around the same time in the same area, and I had heard the stories of he and his twin Mike and their domination on the ice. I remember attending Cushing Academy and Boston University games and seeing Mark play. When I finally met Bavis a number of years later (at a USA Hockey Satellite camp I believe), I could tell immediately he knew hockey better than almost anyone I knew. I ran into Bavis a number of times over the years, and I was always impressed by his professionalism, attention to detail, and friendliness. He always had a kind word for me, and I rarely, if ever, heard him say a bad word about anyone. I have little doubt that if Bavis had not been on that flight on 9/11, he would be a director of scouting in the NHL, or a coach in the upper levels of hockey by now.
Mark believed in leadership and accountability on the ice, and seeing what his family has done since his murder demonstrates to me from where those traits came. His family started the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation, and awards scholarships to deserving high school seniors each year. In addition, they are the lone family who did not accept money from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund or accept a settlement in court (94 families filed litigation and 93 have accepted a settlement). The Bavis family will resume their lawsuit in New York City against United Airlines and security company Huntleigh on September 19 in a hearing, with a trial date scheduled for November.
For the Bavis family, the lawsuit is not about money, it is about accountability – just as Mark always wanted from his players.
“From the very beginning my family has wanted accountability and an airing of the facts to explain why this happened so easily and we have yet to get there,” Mike Bavis told ABC News.
What I will remember most about Ace, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Boston Bruins who was the director of pro scouting for the Kings at the time of his death, are his smile, his laugh, and his stories. No matter when you saw ice, he was happy. His smile and laugh were infectious, and he always had a story to tell.
Ace loved to talk about his family, his career, a player he had seen the night before, a book he had read – name the topic and Ace had a story. More importantly, he always made the person to whom he was talking seem like the most important person in the world to him. He was a kid in an adult’s body.
It is fitting then that his family started the Ace Bailey Children’s Foundation, which has funded a number of projects at Boston’s Floating Hospital for Children, including a 6,500-square-foot play area known as Ace’s Place. The play area is for families and their children who spending time at the hospital for cancer treatments. ESPN’s Scott Burnside wrote a poignant piece about Ace’s Place on the fifth anniversary of 9/11.
His widow, Katherine, and his sister, Barbara Pothier (the executive director of the Ace Bailey’s Children’s Foundation) said helping children was something Ace always did.
“Ace adored kids. He was a big kid himself in many ways and kids just gravitated to Ace,” Pothier once told ESPN. “He wanted to play. That was Ace’s thing.”
Two wonderful human beings had their lives stolen from them by hatred on September 11, 2001. But as with so many other victims of that horrible day, so much love has grown from it. Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey brought a lot of joy into the lives of others, and through the foundations in their names, love is being passed on to others. Their story epitomizes what America is about: dignity, perseverance, integrity, and honor.