The Ottawa Senators hope they can do their part in the process of mourning Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Saturday night and help the nation's capital come together after this week's shooting on Parliament Hill.
The Senators will be back on the ice for their first game since Wednesday's attack when they host the New Jersey Devils at Canadian Tire Centre, about 20 minutes outside of downtown Ottawa. There will be a pre-game ceremony to honour Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed in a separate incident outside Montreal.
It will be followed by co-ordinated rendition of "O Canada" between here, Bell Centre in Montreal and Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
"I really think it's an opportunity for us to help with the healing process that has started here in the city," coach Paul MacLean said. "It started [Friday] night with the Redblacks and all the other stuff that's going on with the tragedy. Now we get an opportunity to come in and help with that healing. I think that's good for our team and we're looking forward to it."
The Redblacks held an emotional pre-game ceremony prior to their CFL game Friday night against the Montreal Alouettes, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gen. Tom Lawson — Canada's chief of the defence staff — present as the league's largest Canadian flag was unfurled on the field. It was the first sporting event in the city since the shooting.
"The Redblacks did a really good job and we're just going to try to follow them up," said Senators centre Kyle Turris, who represented Canada at this year's world hockey championship.
'A lot of pride'
Amid the flowers, candles, stuffed animals and hand-written thank-you notes at the National War Memorial where Cirillo was killed is a black Canadian Olympic hockey jersey. The game between the Senators and Maple Leafs that was supposed to happen Wednesday night was postponed, but there's no doubt hockey has a role in the healing process of this community.
"A lot of pride," Senators winger Bobby Ryan said. "There's a sense that you can move forward, I guess, and you hope that that's what people take out of it."
Defenceman Mark Borowiecki, an Ottawa native, considers the anthem a chance to take a brief break from his job.
"For that few minutes or whatever it is, I'm not a hockey player, I'm part of this community." Borowiecki said. "I think that's the way to look at it: Be a part of that moment with the fans and the people of the city."
It's special even for Ryan, an American, and goaltender Robin Lehner, a Swede. Ryan recently signed a seven-year contract extension and said he'll be a "transplanted Canadian" by the time he's finished playing.
Lehner, who is starting against the Devils, similarly feels like a part of the Ottawa community after being part of the team since 2010.
"When I saw it, it's so unfortunate and it's so sad that it's come to this," Lehner said. "Hopefully we can do everything we can as players, an organization, as fans to stand up for this and have a great night in [Cirillo's] memory."
Part of the night is the hockey game itself, the Senators' first since Oct. 18. With fans encouraged to wear red and plenty of patriotic energy expected, it has taken on the importance like more than a game, and players recognize that.
"It's an important night. It's an important night for the city," Ryan said. "We're in the centre of it, and as leaders in our community, it's important for us to do that.
"I can only speak for our team but I'm sure New Jersey agrees that they want to come in and give people a very honest effort tonight and make sure everybody leaves here feeling better than they did coming in."