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Members of the public lay flowers and pay their respects for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of the Canadian Army Reserves at the National War Memorial, who was killed yesterday while standing guard at the memorial, on October 23, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada.Getty Images

Leo Komarov was first to hear the shots ring out as he sat in Ottawa's Westin Hotel on Wednesday morning, relaxing after playing the night before on Long Island.

He was startled, and he called over his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates to alert them to what was going on.

Something was wrong.

"He heard it happen," Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly said. "We had a peek out his window, and we could see where it was. It was scary."

Across the street, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a 24-year-old reservist from Hamilton, had been gunned down while standing guard at the National War Memorial at 9:52 a.m., a story that gripped the country and made international headlines.

The Leafs, in Ottawa to play the Senators that night, were stuck in the middle of it, locked down with everyone else and a tiny sidebar to a horrific event.

None of the young NHL players involved had ever experienced anything like it, feeling helpless as they watched the drama unfold almost in front of them.

When the decision came down to cancel the game, they were glad it was made.

"Literally my room was a few hundred metres away," Leafs centre Nazem Kadri said of the memorial. "We could it see it all unravel right outside the window. We were all told to stay away from the windows."

"It was a tough day just because how many cops were out and all the cameras on the street and all the streets were blocked off and everything," Rielly said, noting there were SWAT teams and dozens of cops gathered across from their hotel. "As a Canadian, you don't ever assume it's going to happen here… It's a shocker."

"Being that close to it made it seem that much more real," teammate Joffrey Lupul added. "It was the right decision to not play."

Lupul has a personal connection with Canada's military through his Lupe's Troops initiative, which honours soldiers at every Leafs home game.

He expects the Leafs will have a ceremony prior to Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins to honour Cirillo.

The rescheduled game with the Senators, which has been moved to Nov. 9, could also be a good opportunity to remember some of the heroes from Wednesday, he added.

Fittingly, that game will take place two days before Remembrance Day.

"Your heart goes out to the soldier that lost his life," Lupul said. "I understand he had a young child and that's really tough to hear about. Obviously the troops are at every game and hopefully we'll be able to do something real special Saturday."