SUNRISE, Fla. ¡ª A spotlight with each of the victim¡¯s names went up one by one on the ice. And then during a minute of silence, one by one, each spotlight went out as part of a powerful, emotional ceremony to remember the 17 students and faculty lost in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.
Thursday night¡¯s game between?the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals marks the first?time the home team has played?at BB&T Center, which is just 20 minutes away from the Parkland school, since the shooting, and the Panthers held a pregame ceremony to remember the victims. Both teams sat on the bench as a video showing a photo of each victim?played to Adele¡¯s ¡°Hometown Glory.¡±
After the moment of silence, Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo spoke to the crowd. He lives in Parkland, and his wife was born and raised there. Earlier in the day, he spoke of how his nephew played basketball with one of the victims. His children are in the Parkland school system.
¡°No child should ever have to go through that,¡± Luongo said with tears in his eyes. ¡°It¡¯s terrible. It¡¯s time for us as a community to take action. It¡¯s enough. Enough is enough. We¡¯ve got to take action.¡±
Luongo expressed the team¡¯s prayers and support for the families affected by the tragedy. He expressed his gratitude to the teachers who protected the children during the shooting. He ended his speech by praising the Stoneman Douglas students he has seen on the news over the past week as they¡¯ve?called for?gun control.
¡°I¡¯m very, very proud of you guys,¡± Luongo said. ¡°You guys are brave. You guys are an inspiration to all of us. At the end of the day, you guys are what¡¯s giving us hope for the future.¡±
Luongo somehow took his post as the Panthers¡¯ starting goaltender after that. Advertising around the rink was removed, replaced with ¡°MSDSTRONG.¡± Arena staff donned white Stoneman Douglas shirts. Florida players?have?¡°MSD¡± arm patches on their jerseys and Stoneman Douglas logo stickers on their helmets, and those will stay there for the rest of the season. Both teams also wore Stoneman Douglas hats in warm-ups.
¡°It¡¯s our first chance to sort of see the reality of it all,¡± Panthers Coach Bob Boughner said before the game. ¡°Obviously, when you hear that kind of news on the road and you see from a distance what everybody is dealing with in the community, you follow it as best as you can. But until you get home and see it up close, obviously it¡¯s going to be an emotional night. I know a lot of our guys, everybody seems to know somebody who was affected by the tragedy. Just being a part of the community and a sense of pride for our community, I think that we have a role to play in this. Hopefully we can get through this and honor it appropriately and never forget what happened.¡±
¡°I think what¡¯s going on tonight before the game is just as important as the game itself,¡± Luongo said earlier.