Bruce Boudreau reflects on 9/11 and how a last minute flight change saved his life


How fickle the flying finger of fate. And how a different story might 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 from Boston’s Logan Airport on September 11, 2011. But fate intervened.

Boudreau, who at the time was head coach of the Manchester Monarchs, the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, intended to fly to Los Angeles in time for Los Angeles Kings training camp. However, then-Kings head coach Andy Murray had other ideas. He wanted Boudreau and Bobby Jay, his assistant in Manchester, to arrive a day early, as Murray had scheduled 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 early. Thus, a week before the flight, John Wolf, Taylor’s assistant, contacted Boudreau and informed him of the change in flight plans. Boudreau had no problem arriving a day early, but had no idea the change would save his life.

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

“Every year it comes back, I think about it. The movie Flight 93 is going to come on, I’ll watch it over and over again. And you keep thinking about the thoughts that were going through your head at that time. And it It was a crazy, crazy time and I’m a lucky guy.

However, two other people from the Kings organization remained on Tuesday’s 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

The weekend before the infamous robbery, Boudreau and Ace Bailey attended the wedding of the daughter of Kings personnel manager Bill O’Flaherty in Lake Placid, New York. Boudreau remembers suggesting Bailey change her flight from Tuesday to Monday so they could travel together. However, Bailey was told the flight change would cost $750 and he didn’t 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 while coaching the Lowell Lock Monsters before the team moved to Manchester, New Hamshire. To this day, Boudreau has a photo of Bailey in his home in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

“I think about Ace all the time. We were packed like thieves. He lived in Boston, he came and watched our games all the time. Like when he was a player, he was my great protector. If someone said something wrong he would come after him and he would protect me in the organization if someone said we weren’t doing things right he would rush to my aid. And so I mean, it was a big loss for the friendship. You ask anyone, he was loved by everyone.

On the Tuesday morning of September 11, Boudreau’s wife, Crystal, phoned him and told him to turn on the television as a tragedy unfolded. Boudreau ran down the hall and knocked on Bobby Jay’s door. [his assistant coach] gate. They both went to the rink to continue watching the events and realized that Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis were on one of the hijacked flights.

There were panicked calls from family and friends, who wondered if Boudreau himself was on Flight 175, but Crystal assured them he was fine. Even though they knew Boudreau had changed flights, her children were still freaked out.

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

By Diane Doyle

Related reading
Recent interview with Bruce Boudreau from the province on September 11
Remembering 9/11 and Garnet “Ace” Bailey

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