- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2011

All around the city Sunday night, Capitals fans celebrated Alex Ovechkin’s tying goal with 1:07 left to send Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning into overtime, but some were forced to stop watching because of a higher calling.

President Barack Obama was set to make a major announcement. Members of the White House staff and press corps dropped everything they were doing - including many who were watching Caps-Lightning at Verizon Center, their homes or local establishments. Many were so focused on Game 2 that they were unaware of the big world news, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

“All of a sudden, the game doesn’t matter anymore,” the source said.

Word of a major announcement at 9:30 on a Sunday night is usually not good news. But then word trickled out that Osama bin Laden had been killed, and everyone working at or around the White House and the president had to put the Capitals on the back burner. At least one reporter and White House staffer left the arena to rush to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They didn’t learn of Vinny Lecavalier’s game-winning goal for Tampa Bay until the minutes before Obama spoke.

That was the strange confluence of sports and earth-shattering news that enveloped Washington for several hours. It could be seen in the corner of one iconic photo of Obama walking to the podium - and someone behind the teleprompter wearing a red Caps jersey.

The Washington players and coaches whose season took a hit with the 3-2 overtime loss had mixed reactions to bin Laden’s death given that this is their job and their livelihood to play hockey and try to win this playoff series.

Bruce Boudreau, who has a personal connection to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, heard the news after he arrived home from Verizon Center. Boudreau was so wrapped up in the game and the result that he didn’t notice anything different on his drive home.

“I was only thinking about the game,” Boudreau said. “Believe me. I’m conscientious about what went on, but I’m worried about the game.”

The Caps’ coach was set to be on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center but changed his flight. Boudreau was the coach of the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ AHL affiliate. He was going to Los Angeles for training camp and the team changed his flight to Sept. 10 because of a pre-camp meeting and dinner. Two colleagues - scouts Ace Bailey (who played for the Capitals during the 1970s) and Mark Bavis - died on Flight 175, which left Boston the morning of the 11th bound for Los Angeles.

But Boudreau wasnt ruminating over his connection to the situation.

“I’m not thinking about that right now,” the coach said. “I’ll let the rest of the world think about it.”

Plenty of others in the Caps’ locker room were thinking about it Monday morning.

“It was weird, my brother texted me when I got home from the game and he said ‘Is it going crazy down by the White House?’ and I texted back ‘No, we lost tonight, so I don’t think Caps fans are too happy.’ ” forward Brooks Laich said. “And he goes ‘No you dummy, they got Osama bin Laden,’ and so right away I texted back, ‘Wow they’ve been hunting for him for 10 years.’”

For some players, the pain from the Game 2 loss was at least numbed when they heard the news that caused people all over the world to celebrate in the streets.

“You kind of forget about the game for a bit. It’s pretty drastic news, that’s for sure,” forward Jason Chimera said. “I remember [9/11] vividly. I was in Canada at the time but you kind of were just in shock and awe at what happened. Your hearts went out to the families and kind of hopefully that brings a little bit of peace to those people.”

The Caps don’t have a lot of American players - just Mike Knuble, John Carlson, Tom Poti, Sean Collins and Matt Hendricks - but they appreciated the importance of the moment.

“It was certainly a moment that I think a lot of us will remember, in your life when you found out this event,” Knuble said. “Kind of puts things in perspective when you see the families talking about closure; nine, 10 years of agony and finally things being closed up.”



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