This column was scheduled to be about hockey. Believe it or not, it still will be.
Although the actual numbers are not yet known, yesterday, more Americans were killed single day than, perhaps, at any time in the history of the country. Strangely, sadly, savagely, this coordinated attack had as much to do with American sport as it did with America itself.
The metaphor may not seem to stretch that far, that the politics of fear, terrorism, and death have no connection to hockey, or to baseball, or to apple pie, especially when a combined two hundred twenty stories and thousands of lives were razed in minutes. Unfortunately, sometimes such politics do run this deep.
The events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 reflect just as much on the world of hockey as they do on the ideals of bravery and cowardice, of love and hate, because this assault was not aimed at New York City or Washington, D. C. Rather, this was a surgical strike at the entirety of the human experience, something which rents neither expensive office space nor holds elected office.
This terror was aimed squarely at the collective soul of America, Canada, and every other country that bases its notion of 'nation' on the idea of individual freedom.
At its core hockey is an embodiment of this freedom. Is it down the food chain, found somewhere after the pursuit of life and liberty, but just before the pursuit of a comfortable chair and a cold one? No, it is not.
The same freedom that allows people of every race, color, and creed the right to vote, worship, and freely speak their mind also affords every citizen the right not to care, not to participate, and not to act. In essence, the same opportunities that originally created Bill Gates are just as available to every John Doe, and, yes, to every Timothy McVeigh. Such is the ongoing cost of running a republic.
From a court house in Appomattox, to the beaches of Normandy, to the back of a bus in Montgomery, and now to One World Trade Center, such freedomeven if that freedom is only the ability to take in a hockey gamehas again been hit with a substantial cost-of-living increase.
The capacity to watch a hockey game after an arduous day at work or school, to play one game a week in a rec. league, or to trek up the hill to the arena for a meaningless NHL contest in the middle of October is but the fruit of an overall freedom. A freedom that assuredly begins to die the moment it is fed restriction rather than restraint, security rather than self-control.
The ability to live and breath a sporting event, to ascribe life and death emotions to a hockey game, walks hand in hand with the lives given in Europe, the South Pacific, and now, along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States of America. This freedom; to think, act, and feel for yourself, was precisely that which was targeted this early morning in September and it will be how America and her sister nations respond to such aggression and devastation that will dictate not only their dedication to democracy, but their commitment to all of freedom from this day forward.
Maybe tomorrow the NHL training camps will start again, or perhaps they'll commence the day after that. Whenever it happens, the game won't stop and neither will life. Hockey and sport have picked the world up before and they will do so again. Because sport gives us hope, and it is hope which begets freedom.
Which is all simply to say this. In fifty or even a hundred years time, should the average American or Canadian be able to look at the calendar on September 11 and have the first thoughts that jump to mind be those of NHL training camps and the pursuit of the Stanley Cup, that will be the true moment of triumph here. Because that will be the day when freedom still steadfastly upholds the very ideals of independence and democracy so many have given their lives to defend.
That will also be the moment when columns like this will be able to do nothing but alternately commend and criticize the sport of hockey. This will not happen today, or tomorrow, but some day it will, and that is what this thing called freedom is all about.
Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com during the season and believes that American flags only lower to half mast for a reason. He also knows that the number to find the nearest center to donate blood is 1-800-448-3543.