Before the Florida Panthers played the Washington Capitals on Thursday in their first game at BB&T Center since the mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, goalie Roberto Luongo addressed the crowd and told the teachers they were heroes, called the students an inspiration, and encouraged the community to respond with action.
Seventeen students and staff members were killed at the school located in Parkland, Florida, about 14 miles north of the Panthers arena, on Feb. 14, when the Panthers played at the Vancouver Canucks.
Video: Roberto Luongo on love for Parkland, honoring victims
"It was hard for me to be on the West Coast and not be able to get back home and protect my family," said Luongo, who has lived in Parkland for 12 years. "No child should ever have to go through that. It's terrible. It's time for us as a community to take action. It's enough. Enough is enough. We gotta take action. To the families of the victims, our hearts are broken for you guys. There's not much to say. It's heartbreaking. You guys are in our thoughts. We've been thinking about you every day constantly for the last week and just know that we're there for you if you need anything. You'll be in our prayers and let's try to move on together.
"To the teachers of the school, you guys are heroes protecting your children. Some of them didn't make it, trying to protect children. That is truly what a hero is and those people need to be put on a pedestal for the rest of their lives. The last thing I want to say is, since last Wednesday, I've been watching the news and I've been seeing what the kids from Douglas have been doing and I am very, very proud of you guys. You guys are brave. You guys are an inspiration to all of us and at the end of the day, you guys are what's giving us hope for the future."
Video: Moller addresses fans, moment of silence for Parkland
Luongo, who was visibly emotional during the ceremony to honor the 17 victims, said he wants to live in Parkland the rest of his life.
There was a video tribute before the victims' names were displayed on the ice in lights.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game and appeared on the Fox Sports Florida broadcast.
Video: Commissioner Bettman on MSD, Hockey Is For Everyone
"This is obviously in the wake of a horrific tragedy, and when the Panthers can be a part of the bringing together and healing that a community so desperately needs after such a terrible tragedy, that's what tonight is all about," Bettman said.
Panthers and Capitals players wore Stoneman Douglas hats during warmups, and the Panthers hosted a blood drive outside the arena during the game. The "MSD Strong" logo was the only marking on the boards.
"Our privilege is to steward this team for the benefit of the community, for the benefit of everyone in the community across the county," Panthers owner Vincent Viola said. "The Florida Panthers should represent what is the best of our community. So, tonight, hopefully we'll demonstrate that through our demonstration quite frankly of compassion, try to promote healing and the spirit we display on the playing ground."
A 19-year-old former student at the school has been charged in the shooting.
Video: Robert Luongo recaps his heart warming pregame speech