Bruce Boudreau honors 9/11 in unique way
SEP 11, 2013 8:03p ET
Wherever he's working, he takes his coaching staff out for dinner the night before training camp begins, which might sound like an odd way to remember a tragedy. But it’s a powerful and meaningful gesture because being invited to a coaches' dinner in Los Angeles spared him from being a passenger on one of the four planes that were hijacked by terrorists that day.
Boudreau, then coach of the Kings’ top farm team, was booked to travel on United Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 11 with Ace Bailey, the Kings' director of pro scouting, and second-year scout Mark Bavis.
When Kings Coach Andy Murray invited Boudreau and Bailey to come out a night earlier to enjoy a staff dinner, Boudreau changed his itinerary to the same flight but a day earlier.
He tried to persuade Bailey to do the same thing, making his argument while Bailey drove the two of them to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the wedding of the daughter of Kings executive Bill O’Flaherty. Boudreau and Bailey were longtime friends dating to the days Boudreau played for the Edmonton Oilers’ farm team in Nova Scotia, Canada, and Bailey was an Oilers scout.
"Me and Ace would always drive up and go places together, so I was trying to talk him out of it," Boudreau said Wednesday. "I said, 'Why don't you come with me? You'll be great at the dinner. And we'll go up a day earlier and have some fun.’
"He tried to but I think the change of the flight was about $700 on that day and so he said, 'It's too expensive. How about I just see you the next day?' And that's the last words I remember him saying to me."
Boudreau has told the story before, but he still gets chills when he remembers the day's events and how a simple change of plans changed his life. He told the story again on Wednesday — this time over lunch, instead of dinner — to new Ducks goaltending coach Dwayne Roloson.
"The part that gets my goose bumps no matter how many different times I say it is my kids knew I was on that flight and they were in Ste. Catharines (Canada) and they didn't know I changed my flight," Boudreau said. "So they ran home from school and were scared. I just keep picturing the fear in their eyes when they phoned my wife."
Boudreau found out about the hijackings early on Sept. 11 when his wife called him after getting frantic calls from friends who didn’t know he had switched to a flight on the previous day. He immediately went to the Kings’ practice facility to watch TV and get updates on the attacks.
"We were just sort of fixated waiting to hear if Ace had made it," he said.
Bailey and Bavis were among the Sept. 11 victims, and their names are inscribed in adjacent spaces at the memorial site in New York City. Boudreau’s name might have been there too, if not for that dinner invitation and flight change.
"Ever since then," he said, 'I've had a coaches' dinner every year before the season, obviously for what it did."
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