On Saturday, funerals were held for Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, Josephine Gay, 7, and Emilie Parker, 6. They were the last three victims of the Newton, Ct. massacre to be laid to rest. Hours later, and not far from Sandy Hook Elementary, the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers honored the 26 victims in a very special way.
Saturday night marked the first of seven home games where the Sound Tigers would don their alternate blacks and replace the names on the backs of their jerseys with those of the fallen children.
From the scoreboard hanging above center ice, the names of the six adults who were killed remained throughout their 3-2 loss to the Adirondack Phantoms.
“I think everyone had some strong emotions at that moment,” defenseman Matt Donovan told the team website afterward. “We all realized what it meant to wear their names. It’s one of those things that we wanted to do because they are a part of our community and we want to help those families get through this rough time.”
“S.H.E.S. 12.14.12" was painted behind each goal. The Sound Tigers will wear green ribbons on their on their white and blue jerseys along with tribute stickers on their helmets. Newtown residents were given free tickets to Saturday night's game, along with their next two home dates on Dec. 26 and Dec. 29.
At the end of this seven-game tribute on Jan. 20, a member or representative from each family will be invited to receive their jersey off the back of a Sound Tigers player.
The healing process has only just begun and the pain will not go away any time soon for the families who had loved ones taken from them and for the town of Newtown. Sports teams may only provide a distraction for people from the troubles of everyday life, but they can also play an important role in helping to bring a community together.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy