Only after Larry Playfair had told the Hines family that its late son would be honoured by the NHL alumni association tonight did he realize the significance of the date.
Lt. Derek Hines, a popular forward on the West Point hockey team, killed in Afghanistan in 2005, would get the Ace Bailey Award on the seventh anniversary of Bailey dying in one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers, sparking a conflict that has since claimed thousands of young soldiers. Bailey and fellow Kings scout Mark Bavis were on United 175 on 9/11.
Hines, from Essex County, Mass., will be represented by his family and West Point coach Brian Riley as part of tonight's alumni dinner at the Westin Harbour Castle where Bobby Hull will be named man of the year.
"We hadn't planned the Hines ceremony because of the date, but it's certainly fitting," said Playfair, a member of the alumni's board of directors and the Buffalo Sabres representative. "Our alumni honoured the Canadian military at last year's dinner (as well as making a visit to troops in Afghanistan) and because we have American teams, we wanted to do the same for a U.S. soldier this time."
Playfair was put in touch with Riley and learned how many people Hines had touched in his 25 years and the soldiers' assistance fund set up as his legacy. The fund will get a portion of profits from tonight's dinner and other alumni events.
"When they laid him out in his hometown, the coach and all the players who'd been on his team took a bus from West Point," Playfair said. "Those army kids know the score when they sign up to play for four years that if there's a war, there's no question what comes next. They'll be the first in line to go."
Playfair was part of a gathering at the Hockey Hall Of Fame last night to launch signature wines named for Maple Leaf captains Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark. The spirits will be available in LCBO stores beginning Sept. 27.