I've shown a lot of formats for View from Ice Level already this season. But, this ... this is one I hope to never use again.
There isn't much I can offer, or really anything I can offer, about the events that unfolded Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue that hasn't been covered by the mainstream, non-sports news outlets. Even in the sports world, we've had our share of coverage from the angles we're able to provide. It was Chris Bradford reporting from Vancouver over the weekend. It was Dejan Kovacevic speaking from his heart and from the soul of Cam Heyward Sunday in a different kind of 'must win' for the city of Pittsburgh.
I, like most of Pittsburgh, a lot of the world, have just hurt. To quote Michael Keaton on this, because his Tweet on the matter has resonated with me ever so strongly, "They all hurt. Every one, every time, every where. This one? - really hurts." It's true. It's not that it's easier to blink an eye and forget acts of terror or hate when they happen in different cities, it's that this was Squirrel Hill. Squirrel ... Hill. Unreal. It just ... hurts.
There's a pain, a sadness I can feel behind my eyes for a community I have no attachment to beyond the pavement that connects us and the city that sits in between. I've never been to Tree of Life. I've never been in a synagogue. And that doesn't matter. It has never mattered. Parts of Pittsburgh were murdered. Parts of humanity were murdered. Murder in the name of politics is terror, and terror most certainly doesn't belong in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins did a tremendous job remembering those who were slain, recognizing the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and honoring the officers wounded while responding to the situation. They very much do belong in Pittsburgh.
First, there was the video tribute to the city on the scoreboard. The refrain of the night, of the week, of the city echoed endlessly as it played — Stronger Than Hate. That was the theme of the night.
This was Matt Murray watching the video from his goal crease, the bright white of the video and the imagery illuminating him in light instead of being swallowed in darkness:
On the camera side of Murray, and of anthem favorite Jeff Jimerson, are three members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. From my camera to Mr. Jimerson they are Sue Berman Kress, Bob Silverman and Josh Sayles. You can see them at the very top of this story, heads hanging, joining all of PPG Paints Arena in a moment of silence. It was a longer moment from that at Heinz Field, not to take anything away from that, but the atmosphere felt more intimate because of the venue and its size.
That's my favorite moment of a hockey game that really didn't matter — not in the hockey sense. As I stood nearby and photographed the guests during the ensuing anthem, watching Mr. Silverman, in particular, fight to hold back tears, I again felt myself grateful and thankful to have a camera in front of my quivering eyelids, a job to concentrate on, and my footing to be mindful of along the slippery edge of the concrete where it meets the ice.
Something about Jimerson's anthem felt more special to me standing at ice level. The weight of the moment, hearing his voice in the immediate vicinity of its projection rather than the speakers hanging from the rafters above. Hearing how the arena works as a chorus behind his solo act and accompanies his voice when it doesn't have to overpower it through the amplified airwaves.
This was just a special anthem, special moment of silence, and a Pittsburgh moment I'll remember forever, even if I'd prefer to forget the reason why.
Ceremony is such a weird word. I feel that it is so often slung around with connotations similar to its cousin celebratory, even if they're not synonymous. It nearly feels wrong to use either word following such a tragedy, but both words, celebratory above all, feel like the perfect choice to ... celebrate ... life. Among those who were injured during Saturday's attack were officers Anthony Burke and officer Mike Smidga. And yes, they absolutely deserved ceremony and celebration for their bravery and sacrifice.
Standing behind Sidney Crosby was Smidga. Behind Anders Lee, Burke. Behind the group, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert who stretched a 'thin blue line' American flag across his two injured officers as they stood ceremoniously before dropping pucks for the respective team captains.
Just another unbelievably powerful moment Tuesday.
PATCHED BUT NOT WHOLE
The Penguins sported 'Stronger Than Hate' patches on their right shoulders. The triangle Penguin logo cleverly turned into an honorary Star of David to recognize the Jewish community attacked and suffering, as well as the city of Pittsburgh. While the patches were not made available for sale at the game, each player signed their patched game jersey and they will be auctioned off through November 13, bidding ending at noon.
Seen below, I imagine this man's jersey will raise quite a bit. The proceeds from the auction benefit the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and a fund established by the City of Pittsburgh Department of Safety for the wounded officers.
On top of being able to help by purchasing Phil Kessel's and others' jerseys, proceeds from the game's 50/50 raffle and collections taken at the gates ahead of the game will also go toward the fund. Beyond the three fundraisers, the Penguins Foundation also donated $50,000 toward it, as well.
The total pot from the 50/50 Tuesday? An overwhelming $75,000, half of which would go to the funds and an impressive $27,500 more than the next highest pot of the season.
Money can't change history, and these patches can't fix the unbearable pain felt in Pittsburgh, especially by the Tree of Life congregation. But, hopefully, these efforts can make things a little bit easier for the families affected. Not now, but someday. And, hopefully, actions like this by a hockey team can help unify a city so it can heal itself and prevent another tragedy from ever happening in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood again.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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