OTTAWA - On Friday night, the CFL's Ottawa Redblacks will return to the field. The NHL's Senators will take the ice Saturday.
Neither game has much significance in the standings for either team — the Redblacks are playing out their disappointing inaugural season while the Sens are just getting their campaign started.
But after Wednesday's brazen attack on Parliament Hill, the games have become something more than just sporting events. Players on both teams say they hope to lift the heartbroken city's spirits and help begin the healing process.
"I think it shows we are defiant to outside threats or acts of terrorism," said Jeff Hunt, president of the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group, which owns the Redblacks. "We're going to continue to live as Canadians and enjoy our lives and enjoy our freedoms. A sporting event is never more important than after something like what happened here in Ottawa."
The Redblacks' game against the Montreal Alouettes will be the first large scale public gathering since Wednesday's shooting at the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill.
Both the Senators, who host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, and Redblacks said fans should expect increased security measures.
The Senators said in a release that all patrons will be screened with hand-held metal detectors and have their bags searched before they will be granted access on all future event days at Canadian Tire Centre.
Both teams, however, preferred the focus be on the resiliency of Ottawa residents and sports fans.
"Friday night I think the Redblacks game and our game Saturday that it will be real special to see a cool atmosphere and see everybody come together and show our support for everybody involved through the game," said Senators forward Kyle Turris. "Anything we can do to help with spirits or take our minds off things we'll be happy to do."
The Redblacks will hold a pre-game tribute in memory of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed Wednesday, as well as two Canadian soldiers who were attacked Monday in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed and another Canadian soldier was injured in that attack when a man deliberately drove a car into them.
The Senators will also be holding a moment of silence in honour of the week's events, a special ceremony and anthem presentation. The team is asking fans to wear red to the game in honour of Canada's military personnel and first responders.
"When this happens hockey takes a backseat, it really is secondary with a tragic incident like this," said Senators Sports & Entertainment president Cyrill Leeder. "But hockey is important to Canadians and to our community here and we think we will be an important part of that moving forward process for the community."
Both organizations employ a number of local players who said Wednesday's events left them shaken, but also incredibly proud.
"It's unsettling for sure and it's sad to see," said Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki, who grew up in an Ottawa suburb. "We're such a small community and you've got such a small town feel here that sometimes you kind of forget that we are a major city and we're the capital of a major western country."
Senators' defenceman Cody Ceci, who also grew up in Ottawa, had a number of family members working in the downtown core and worried about their safety until he was able to make contact with them.
Much was the same for the local members of the Redblacks, who will take particular pride representing their community on Friday.
"It's special to be able to play in front of my hometown and help people take their minds off the tragedy of what happened," said fullback John Delahunt. "When events like this happen Canadians seem to unite so I definitely expect to see a great sense of patriotism from the fans. I'm sure it will be an emotional anthem and we can all reflect on what a great country we live in."
Players from both organizations spoke of the surreal scope of emotions that went through their minds as events unfolded through the day.
"It's scary how something like that can happen," said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips. "At the same time, as bad as it is, you get a sense of safety with it seeing what a great job the emergency teams did of containing it."
Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell said Wednesday's events put the importance of sports in perspective.
"We always talk in football like you have to act as if it's the most important thing in the world because it's such a competitive sport," Campbell said. "But you have to realize that it really isn't, that there are a lot more important things in the world."
Players said they had no concern for their own personal safety despite the shooting.
"I'm sure the security will be top notch and it's important to get back to our lives as we know it," Delahunt said. "As Canadians we can't let an event like (Wednesday's) change our lives and how we live it."
Defensive lineman Keith Shologan said it's natural that there will be some safety concerns, but he doesn't expect it will keep anyone from coming to the game.
"We live in Canada, we live in a peaceful place and these things don't happen very often and I think that's why when they do they hurt so much," Shologan said. "If you let things like that affect you then the terrorists are winning."
The Senators game against the Toronto Maple Leafs scheduled for Wednesday night was rescheduled for November 9.
This marked the second time the Senators have had a game postponed in light of violent events. Ottawa was in Boston preparing to play the Bruins in April 2013 when bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon.