Holy Mackinaw! In his 20th season of calling the action of the blue and white, Joe Bowen is the definitive voice of the Maple Leafs. You can listen to Joe do the play-by-play on Leafs TV and radio broadcasts and now you can get his insights on the what's happening with the team.
Prior to the start of the Maple Leafs home-and-home series with the Rangers the team got a major dose of reality tossed their way with the organization of a trip to what has become known as Ground Zero in New York.
The events of what is simply now called 9/11 were brought home vividly when Paul Hendrick of NHL Security made the arrangements for the entire team and members of the Leaf media were allowed to go behind the scenes at the site in Lower Manhattan.
Each player reacted differently to the tragic site and we all learned so much more from talking to New York policemen and chaplains as well as construction workers who have worked tirelessly at the site of the World Trade Center towers.
For Bryan McCabe it was a frightening site.
"My wife is from New York so it was very close to home when the event took place in September," said McCabe. "We were just about to start training camp when that morning's events took place. I was very glad I had the opportunity to come to Ground Zero to pay my respects and say a prayer for those families who lost loved ones due to this tragedy"
Sergeant Scott Brady of the NYPD along with Officer Joe Gomes led the Leafs bus with a motorcycle escort once we came through the Lincoln Tunnel and arrived in Manhattan. The officers also joined us on the tour of a rooftop of an adjoining building that was 40 floors high. On that rooftop an engineer informed us that after the attack, the bodies of one of the terrorists as well as a bound flight attendant from one of the American Airlines jets was found right where we were standing overlooking the World Trade Center site.
We were informed that the World Trade Center would have been another 70 stories higher than where we were standing and that the rubble after the collapse was some eight to 10 stories high.
The round-the-clock work done by iron workers and construction personnel has the rubble removed to street level now and the job of digging out seven underground floors of parking lot is still ongoing. Work stops periodically when another body is found and removed under a U.S. flag to be claimed by a grieving family.
Personally while viewing the site I realized that those two huge oceans on either side of the continent, which we once felt were an impregnable defence to foreign attack, were no longer airtight. I thought back to a time before I was born but heard and read about when cities like London, Berlin, Dresden, Coventry, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and others were completely leveled because of war. The World Trade Center covered just six city blocks in New York City, but our first taste of this in North America is a realization that we no longer are immune to this kind of terrorism or war.
While the Leafs prepared for their game with the Rangers the next night all were moved by the activity and heroism of the men and women working at Ground Zero. It made a game the next night seem rather unimportant by comparison.