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Bush Speech Stops Flyers and Rangers

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From Associated Press

With President Bush on the big screen, hockey suddenly didn’t matter anymore, not to the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers or the thousands of fans.

The start of the third period of the NHL exhibition game was delayed and then called off Thursday night as fans demanded to watch the president’s speech to Congress instead of the game.

By the time Bush finished speaking 36 minutes later, the teams lined up at center ice to shake hands.

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As a video flag waved on the screen, an announcement was made that the game was declared a 2-2 tie after two periods “out of respect for where the United States was headed in the near future.”

The speech was about to begin as the intermission clock counted down the final minute in between the second and third periods. The scoreboard said that play was about to resume, and the speech could be seen in the outer concourses.

When the speech was taken off the screen, the 19,117 fans began to boo, before chanting in unison “Leave it on.”

As the teams returned to the benches for the third period, the speech was restored to loud cheers.

“I thought it was a no-brainer for us to wait,” said Ranger defenseman Brian Leetch, who lost a close friend in the attack on the World Trade Center and also has a brother in the Green Berets stationed in Kuwait. “If they started cheering ‘Let’s play hockey’ then we’d play hockey.”

The players were as interested in watching the address as the fans. Some kneeled along the side boards, next to the four game officials who straddled the center ice line. Wherever the players were, all heads was looking up.

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