As we near the 20-year anniversary of September 11, Jared Aulin reflects on the tragic loss of LA Kings scouts Mark Bavis and Garnet “Ace” Bailey.
We will always remember where we were on the morning of September 11, 2001. The horrific events in New York City spurred a storm of emotions from so many, whether from New York, another part of the United States, or on the other side of the world. This was only intensified when it involved those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks: families, friends, the residents of New York and the surrounding areas, and, of course, the survivors. For the LA Kings, though, the 9/11 attacks hit home when they learned that two of their beloved scouts, Mark Bavis and Garnet “Ace” Bailey, were on board one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on that ominous morning.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the LA Kings were beginning their annual training camp, kicking off a new season with a great deal of momentum. The Kings, after all, had upset the heavily-favored Detroit Red Wings the previous spring — winning their first playoff series since 1993 — before falling one game short of a trip to the Conference Finals.
Just seven months earlier, the Kings pulled off a blockbuster trade, sending captain Rob Blake and Steven Reinprecht to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, and, at the behest of Bailey and Bavis, a prospect by the name of Jared Aulin.
While Deadmarsh and Miller would have an immediate impact on the Kings’ unexpected success that spring, Aulin was continuing his major-junior career with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. But, by September 2001, he was determined to do Bailey and Bavis proud.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Aulin, who reminisced about his first encounter with the two Kings scouts, how they got to know each other, and how it felt when he, and his new team, learned of the tragedy in New York.
“I spoke with them just after the trade took place,” Aulin recalled of his first encounter with Bailey and Bavis. “They wanted to chat with me and let me know that they were interested.”
Initially, Aulin wasn’t meant to be part of the blockbuster trade between the Kings and Avs, but Bailey and Bavis saw something in the Calgary native that could benefit the Kings down the road. The vote of confidence did wonders for Aulin, and the process only made him garner deep respect for the duo.
“Real incredible guys, super intelligent, carried themselves in a way that was professional but also respectful,” added Aulin. “Didn’t make me feel nervous. Just let me know that there was interest and didn’t put pressure on me to do anything differently. So, that kept my mind at ease, especially when you know you’re in a situation where there is interest and you could potentially be traded.”
After finishing his third season in Kamloops with an impressive mark of 108 points, Aulin was ready to take the next step. So, entering his first training camp with the Kings, the youngster was primed to make an immediate impact on his new team.
“I was excited. It was nice that I wasn’t traded because I wasn’t liked. I was chosen in the trade and so I felt like people wanted to see a young prospect who was traded for a legend there in Rob Blake,” Aulin explained. “So, I was excited, eager to show up at camp and play well.”
Sadly, in what felt like an instant, that excitement came to a halt as hockey was no longer a priority in the City of Angels.
“I remember arriving in camp, waking up in the morning and turning on the TV and seeing 9/11 all over every channel, and feeling heartbroken but not knowing the extent of how close it was to the Kings’ organization,” Aulin quietly added. “Worldwide, it was the same feeling. Seeing the tragedy of the attack and I didn’t know what to think. I had my own room and I remember going down to camp, the initial meeting with everybody who was in camp — coaches, GMs, and the scouts — and I remember it was a very gloomy morning. That was obviously expected but not be the same extent that it was in the Kings’ organization.”
It was then when Aulin and the team were blindsided by the unthinkable.
“I remember [then-Kings GM] Dave Taylor chatting with the group and then talking about the obvious of what’s taken place in New York and then suddenly hearing how close to home it hit by hearing that both Ace and Mark were involved in it and no longer with us,” a somber Aulin recalled. “That’s when it really hit everybody hard. As players, we didn’t know what to expect moving forward, but the organization felt it was best to move forward with training camp and to honor them with respect and go out and play hard, to prove our value and respect to them as scouts who are part of the organization and allowed a lot of us to have the opportunity to be there.”
For the Kings, they were dealt a near-impossible situation. But, to the organization’s credit, they forced themselves to push forward, trying hard to make what they could out of a horrible situation.
“We wanted to try and make them proud and do our best to show that we appreciate them as people, as scouts, and that the Kings’ organization was thankful for everything they did,” Aulin noted. “At the same time, very, very hurt by the incident. It was kind of hard to explain. It was– it was a– didn’t seem real. It didn’t seem like something so far away could impact us so closely. So, it was hard to actually grasp it all until the end of the day when the first day of training camp is done and you just kind of go, like, ‘Is this real life?'”
Shortly after training camp in Los Angeles, Aulin returned to Kamloops for his fourth and final season of major-junior, scoring 33 goals and 67 points. Aulin’s time with the Kings, however, was brief, playing just 17 games for the Kings in 2002-03 while spending the remainder of the campaign in Manchester.
While injuries did play a factor, Aulin experienced a loss of passion for the game he loved over the next few years before resurrecting that passion to the point where he enjoyed a successful playing career in Europe. But, while it was a friend who helped him restore his passion, and love, for hockey, Aulin took some time to remember what Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey taught him years earlier.
“Having met them a handful of times before being traded allowed me to understand that as much as hockey is a business, that my opportunity depends on what I do with my time on the ice and how I carry myself as a person,” the 39-year-old said. “Along with my parents, they always reminded me, too, that the way they think isn’t just about what you do on the ice but how you carry yourself off the ice. They wanted to bring good people into the organization and understand. They wanted to understand who each of us are that becomes part of the organization and I think when you have anyone in business or your professional career, no matter what you’re doing in life, you want to know that the higher-ups respect you as a person and see you as a person first, but also see you as an asset for their company — in this regard, the LA Kings.”
These lessons resonated with Aulin, helping him in his return to hockey.
As tragic, and as personal, as the circumstances of September 11 were, however, Aulin found closure in knowing just how beneficial Bailey and Bavis were to him both personally and professionally. While brief, Aulin’s relationship with Bailey and Bavis was a special one — and one he will benefit from for the rest of his life.
“They were just very humble people. They were very educated people,” Aulin emphasized. “You felt comfortable with them from day one. As a young kid, you’re obviously always nervous when you’re talking to NHL people and they didn’t make you feel that way right from that first encounter.”
It is a day that will forever live in the hearts of New Yorkers, Americans, and people all over the world. It was a tragedy unlike any other and one that broke your heart, no matter how direct, or indirect, it was.
One silver lining, however — assuming it’s appropriate to call it that — from tragedies of this magnitude is that there are so many inspiring stories from the plethora of vantage points created from these unthinkable circumstances.
Being reminded of how courageous and inspiring the NYFD and NYPD were, for instance, for their tireless work in the aftermath of this tragedy is a fine example of this. Another is from an overall standpoint, seeing those with differing views and opinions putting their differences aside to come together and unite as one, to stand up in the face of such deep-seated external hatred and adversity. To native Canadians, like yours truly, who showed immediate solidarity with their fallen neighbors or, to see those from the great province of Newfoundland who took in, housed, and comforted countless stranded airline passengers on that fateful day.
New paths were created by survivors, legacies formed for those we lost, and for those affected by the tragedy of September 11, like Jared Aulin and the LA Kings, managed to persevere during their darkest hour and come out stronger than they had ever imagined.
Not a day goes by where Jared Aulin isn’t grateful for the opportunity that Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey gave to him and the confidence they instilled in him. Now in his post-playing career, Aulin is enjoying the next chapter of his life, which includes fatherhood, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. So, while it may have had some bumps and detours along the way, Jared Aulin’s journey in hockey — and in life — have helped shape him into the quality human being he is today. Of course, while many have contributed to his overall success, those left by Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey are, and will always be, recognized, appreciated, and celebrated by Jared Aulin as he looks back on what has so far been an incredible ride.
On this, the 20th anniversary of September 11, we remember those we lost, including Mark Bavis and Garnet “Ace” Bailey: two gentlemen who had a profound impact on so many lives, including that of Jared Aulin’s.
So, let us stop, bow our heads and raise a glass to the lives and legacy of Mr. Bavis and Mr. Bailey — who were with us then, are with us now, and will continue to be with us forever.