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Senators, Devils honor fallen Canadian soldiers

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- On a memorable night at the end of tragic week, Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan said he knows what he will remember most.

"I think we knew the atmosphere was going to be like that right when we came out. It gives you the chills with the glow sticks going and the fans being loud. 'O Canada' was something that I'll always remember. I think a lot of people can echo that," Ryan said Saturday after an emotional night at Canadian Tire Centre.

In a coordinated effort, the Senators, Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs honored two Canadian soldiers, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrick Vincent, who were killed in separate incidents during the week. The ceremony also honored the first responders to those incidents.

The Senators and the New Jersey Devils stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the center ice circle for the ceremony. In the middle, at center ice, were representatives of the Canadian military.

Anthem singer Lyndon Slewidge started singing "O Canada" before raising the microphone to the sellout crowd, which sang loudly and proudly -- as did fans at Bell Centre in Montreal and Air Canada Centre in Toronto, where the pregame ceremony was shown on the video board.

"As hockey players we have a lot respect for each other and that's part of the game," said Devils defenseman Damon Severson, who had a goal and an assist in New Jersey's 3-2 overtime victory.

"When something happens like that, an unfortunate situation in the world, in Ottawa here, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those guys, it really shows our respect. I think as players of a sport, any sport, the people who work with our police task force, it shows them we really do appreciate that."

Ryan said the moment transcended the game.

"Shoulder to shoulder, it's not something you see, but at the end of the day there's a human element to it," he said. "Put away the fact that we're going to battle for 60 minutes just after that and recognize that at the end of the day it's a game and there's more important things. It's not a bonding moment, but it's one of those moments where you realize you're all part of something bigger."

Devils forward Jaromir Jagr, who scored the winning goal in overtime, said the players standing shoulder-to-shoulder was an important part of sending a message. Jagr stood next to Ryan and Senators captain Erik Karlsson.

"It was good. It was good for Canada and maybe the whole world to show we stick together no matter what happens," he said. "The world is kind of tough. There are a lot of people in the world and some of them are a little more crazy and not thinking very much. That kind of stuff happens, but we have to show we stick together."

At the end of the night it was just a hockey game, but Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, a native of Marblehead, Mass., said he knows firsthand the kind of pleasant distraction a sporting event can provide in trying circumstances.

"I was very close to the Boston Marathon bombing," he said. "I remember how much everyone rallied around the Bruins and the Red Sox and the local teams just to find something to sort of escape from what's been going on.

"I have no doubt it was the same up here especially with how much people love hockey up here. Hopefully we were able to do that. Again, it's just a game, but hopefully we served our purpose."

The ceremony had more significance for Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki, an Ottawa native who grew up just west of Canadian Tire Centre.

"I love this city, I love this country; not to sound too cheesy," he said. "I'm a pretty proud Canadian. It's just such a horrible situation. It was definitely emotional.

"It's nice to come together and kind of reflect at the beginning of the game. Hopefully that kind of jump starts the healing process for us."

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