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Hockey returns to Ottawa with emotional pre-game anthem ceremony

Hockey returned to Ottawa on Saturday with a chilling pre-game ceremony to honour slain soldiers Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.

As fans waved mini Canadian flags and glow sticks, Senators and Devils players joined together around centre-ice while military personnel from Cirillo's division in Hamilton and local first responders stood at attention inside the circle.

It's the first hockey game in Ottawa since Wednesday's attack on Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial, where Cirillo was shot to death. Vincent was killed in a hit-and-run attack Monday near Montreal.


With the ceremony co-ordinated between Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Bell Centre in Montreal and Air Canada Centre in Toronto, fans in all three arenas observed a lengthy moment of silence.

In Ottawa, Lyndon Slewidge performed the "Star-Spangled Banner" before the emotional rendition of "O Canada" got underway.

As a large flag made its way through the crowd and fans belted out the anthem, many waved their own flags brought from home.

When the anthem was over, fans continued to stand and applaud.

Anthem singer Lyndon Slewidge holds up the microphone as the crowd sings 'O Canada' (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Patrick Stump's "This City" played over the arena speakers as players prepared for the game.

The Senators and Devils welcomed their opportunity to be a part of honouring Cirillo and Vincent before the game.


"I really think it's an opportunity for us to help with the healing process that has started here in the city," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said Saturday morning. "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."

The CFL's Redblacks held an emotional pre-game ceremony Friday 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 major sporting event in the city since the shooting.

Wednesday's Senators-Maple Leafs game was postponed following the Ottawa attack.

"It's an important night," Senators winger Bobby Ryan said. "It's an important night for the city. We're in the centre of it, and as leaders in our community, it's important for us to do that."

The Devils played Friday night at home, but coach Pete DeBoer took time between afternoon meetings to walk from the team's downtown hotel to the National War Memorial where Cirillo was killed DeBoer is from Dunnville, Ont., not far from Cirillo's home in Hamilton.

"Any time there's an event of terrorism, it shakes you," DeBoer said. "It's a sad day. I'm glad that we're here and a part of this. The healing process starts."

Devils defenceman Eric Gelinas, who is from Vincent's hometown of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., also visited the memorial.

A black Canadian Olympic hockey jersey was left amid the flowers, candles, stuffed animals and hand-written thank-you notes at the memorial. Hockey took a break after the tragedy, but there's no doubt it has a role in the healing process of this community.

That was clear Saturday night.

"There's a sense that you can move forward, I guess, and you hope that that's what people take out of it," Ryan said.

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