Bruce Boudreau Reflects On 9/11 And How A Last-Minute Flight Change Saved His Life

PHOTO: BOB FRID-USA TODAY SPORTS

How fickle the flying finger of fate. And how different history could have unfolded as a result. Former Washington Capitals Head Coach, Bruce Boudreau, was originally scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on United Airlines Flight 175 out of Boston Logan Airport on September 11, 2001.  But fate intervened.

Boudreau, who at that time was Head Coach of the Manchester Monarchs, the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, had plans to fly to Los Angeles in time for the Los Angeles Kings’ training camp. However, Andy Murray, then Head Coach of the Kings, had other ideas. He wanted Boudreau and Bobby Jay, his assistant at Manchester, to fly in a day earlier, as Murray had planned a pre-camp meeting and dinner that evening with all the coaches in the organization.

Kings’ General Manager, Dave Taylor, listened to Murray’s request to have his coaches arrive a day sooner. Thus, a week before the flight, John Wolf, Taylor’s assistant, contacted Boudreau and told him of the change in flight plans. Boudreau did not have any problems with arriving a day earlier, but had no idea the change would save his life.

“Andy Murray, well … he did, he saved my life. I can tell you minute by minute, from six o’clock L.A. time that morning on the 11th to the end of the day, how it went. It was a crazy day,” Boudreau told The Province earlier this week.

“Every year it comes around, I think about it. The Flight 93 movie’s going to be on, I’ll watch it again and again. And you just keep thinking of the thoughts that went through your head at that time. And it was a crazy, crazy time and I’m one lucky guy.”

However, two other persons from the Kings’ organization remained on the Tuesday flight from Boston, Scouting Director Garnet “Ace” Bailey, who had played with the Washington Capitals, and scout Mark Bavis. Both perished.

Photo: CP Photo/Files /Canadian Press

On the weekend before the infamous flight, Boudreau and Ace Bailey attended the wedding of the daughter of Bill O’Flaherty, the Kings’ Director of Personnel, in Lake Placid, New York. Boudreau recalled suggesting that Bailey change his flight from Tuesday to Monday so they could travel together. However, Bailey learned that the flight change would cost $750 and he did not want the Kings’ to be responsible for that amount, so his plans remained to fly out on Tuesday.

Boudreau and Bailey had become close friends when he coached for the Lowell Lock Monsters before the team moved to Manchester, New Hamshire. To this day, Boudreau has a picture of Bailey in his house in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

“I think about Ace all the time. We were tight as thieves. He lived in Boston, he was coming up and watching our games all the time. Just like when he was a player, he was the big protector of me. If somebody said something bad he’d go right after them and he protected me within the organization if somebody was saying we’re not doing things right, he would jump to my help. And so I mean, it was a big loss for friendship. You ask anybody, he was loved by everybody.”

On the Tuesday morning of 9/11, Boudreau’s wife, Crystal, phoned him and told him to turn on the TV as a tragedy was unfolding. Boudreau ran down the hallway and knocked on Bobby Jay’s [his assistant coach] door. They both went to the rink to continue to watch the events and realized that Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis were on one of the highjacked flights.

There were panicked calls from family and friends, who wondered if Boudreau himself was on Flight 175 but Crystal assured them he was okay. Even though they were aware that Boudreau had changed flights, his children were still panicked.

“They were all in school when they heard the news. And they ran home. It was pretty crazy. I still get all choked up when I even talk about it now, because I can picture the fear in their eyes and in their voices.”

Boudreau has also recounted his 9-11 memories in his autobiography, “Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer”

By Diane Doyle

Related Reading
Recent Interview With Bruce Boudreau From the Province on 9/11
Remembering 9/11 and Garnet “Ace” Bailey

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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10 Responses to Bruce Boudreau Reflects On 9/11 And How A Last-Minute Flight Change Saved His Life

  1. Anonymous says:

    Fate is indeed crazy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Crazy how life can change on a dime.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Live each day to the fullest.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Interesting how Flight #77 flew for 77 minutes and crashed into the 77′ tall Pentagon on its bday(yes, it started construction on 9.11.41), and is located on the 77th Meridian… And how Flight #11 flew into the 11th state to hit the 1st of the Twin Towers that so happen to have the shape of an 11, and stood 110 stories tall with an 110′ attenna…all happened exactly 11 years after daddy Bush gave the New World Order speech on 9.11.90. This event happened during his son, GW Bush term, who just so happened to graduate from Yale with 911 graduates.?!?

    and since I mentioned ’41, they called that event the modern day Pearl Harbor, so when Towers #1, #2, and #7 fell, I couldn’t help realize it too was a ritual to 12.7.41, the day of Pearl Harbor. Lots of numerical rituals orchestrated by a man who lived in a cave??!!!? How did the man in the cave cause building #7 to collapse without even hitting it with a plane…you know, the one that held all the accounting for the missing $2.3 trillion…hmmm!

  5. Anonymous says:

    That’s crazy.

  6. Jonathan says:

    Not sure if your editor has caught this yet, but 9/11 wasn’t in 2011, but 2001 during G. W. Bush’s Presidency.

  7. Jonathan says:

    The events surrounding 9/11 occurred in two thousand one.

  8. Jonathan says:

    It seems like yesterday, but that tragic event happened 21 years ago. Indelible.

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