A portion of the hockey world will mark the anniversary of 9-11 by turning its eyes to an unlikely place—a racetrack.
They will be focused on Aces Mark, a six-year-old gelding who is scheduled to run in Saturday's eighth race at Belmont Park. The horse was purchased by a large group of investors from around the NHL and named for Los Angeles Kings scouts Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis, who were killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.
Long-time Ottawa Senators scout Lew Mongelluzzo will skip the first day of the team's prospect tournament in London, Ont., to attend the race at Belmont. He operates Team Power Play Racing, which owns Aces Mark, and will be thinking of his former colleagues on the ninth anniversary of their death.
"There's no better word for it than bittersweet," Mongelluzzo said Friday. "As much as you get excited about the race—we feel the horse is doing well and going to perform well—it takes a split second to remember everything that's gone wrong and why we're here.
"The reality is that it's not a happy time."
Bailey and Bavis were aboard United Airlines flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center.
The 53-year-old Bailey was set to begin his 33rd season of professional hockey. The native of Lloydminster, Sask., won seven Stanley Cups during his career—two as a player with the Boston Bruins and five as a scout with the Edmonton Oilers—and was the Kings director of pro scouting.
Bavis, 31, was about to enter his second season as an amateur scout for the franchise. The American was a former draft pick of the New York Rangers.
Mongelluzzo knew both men well and was part of the original group that purchased the horse six years ago. While the ownership structure has since changed, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and Carolina Hurricanes scout Bob Luccini are among those who still hold a stake in Aces Mark.
Bailey and Bavis each had charitable foundation named for them after their death. Mongelluzzo thought naming a horse for the men would provide a different kind of honour.
"It's about their legacy, to keep their spirit alive in another fashion," he said. "It's not about money. We'll never get even—I can tell you that."
The fact Aces Mark even made it to the start line is a small miracle. The horse suffered from a number of serious ailments after being purchased.
However, it has since recovered and now boasts a resume that features four wins in 20 starts. When Team Power Play Racing decided to run it at Belmont Park, it had no idea the race would fall on 9-11.
"I'd like to tell you we planned this, but we didn't," said Mongelluzzo.