On Sept. 11, 2001, I was supposed to be on United Airlines flight 175. That was one of the two flights that flew into the World Trade Center. I was named head coach of the AHL’s expansion Manchester franchise in the off-season, and Los Angeles was our NHL affiliate. The only reason I wasn’t on that flight was because Andy Murray, who coached the Kings, wanted to have a dinner with his staff prior to training camp.
Andy was a very meticulous coach, so it was a bit odd that this dinner was not on the original itinerary because of how detail-orientated he was. I was originally supposed to travel with my assistant coach Bobby Jay and Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis in our scouting department because we all lived in the same area. At Andy’s request, the Kings changed mine and Bobby’s tickets and we flew from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 10 instead. At the time, I did not think anything of it, but looking back now, Andy’s decision to have a dinner with his staff saved my life. The ramifications run deep. Ace and Mark were not as fortunate. Everyone remembers where they were on that day, and I have the memory of losing a couple good friends. It’s rough.
I thank my lucky stars every day that Andy scheduled a coaches meeting. I thanked him a thousand times over that week for making the change, but it was a double-edged sword because one of my better friends, Ace, went through that. You feel guilty for thanking him and for changing the flight, but at the same time you are very grateful. It’s weird. I owe him my life.
The most chilling thing for me is that everyone was calling my wife, Crystal, around 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 and asking, “Did Bruce go to Los Angeles? Is he safe?” She did not know what they were talking about because she had not turned on the TV. Once they told her what was happening, she called my hotel and woke me up at around 6 a.m. to make sure I was there and fine, even though we had talked the night before after I landed.
My kids were in school in Canada at the time and when they found out, they ran out of the building and they ran the two miles to home. They did not have any cell phones at that time and had to phone Crystal to make sure I was safe. They were scared stiff because they knew that was the day that I was supposed to fly, and I did not tell them that I had changed flights. It was pretty chilling to listen to them tell the story. As a father, you picture them looking up at the TV screen in the school, seeing this and knowing that your dad is supposed to be on that flight.
There are two things that I do every year now because of that day. The first is that I make sure I play in the Ace Bailey Golf Classic in Manchester. I don’t care where I am, I always go back for it. His wife, Kathy, has done a great job creating a charity for Ace
and the charity does a lot for hospitals in the Boston area.
The second is now that I have the ability to have a dinner with the coaches the day before camp, we have one.