Nodding-head figurines, or bobbleheads, have been a promotional mainstay of major league sports for decades. Typically, they reference teams and individual players beloved by loyal fans. This variant embodies the lion mascot adopted by the Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team in 2007. It also doubles as a tribute to the lion’s human namesake, Garnet Edward “Ace” Bailey, director of pro-scouting for the team, who was killed on 9/11.
Born in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, “Ace” Bailey began his career on ice with the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he enjoyed a long affiliation over his 34 years in professional sports.
His nickname was an inheritance from his father, Irving Wallace “Ace” Bailey, a notable player for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bailey also played in the National Hockey League for eleven seasons, breaking in with the Boston Bruins in 1968. Holding the position of left wing, he was a standout during the Bruins’ Stanley Cup winning seasons in the early 1970s. He subsequently played for the Detroit Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues and the Washington Capitals.
Upon his retirement as a professional athlete, Bailey reinvested his experience into talent scouting for the Edmonton Oilers and then, for the Los Angeles Kings. He had been with the Kings for seven years when, on Sept. 11, 2001, he boarded Flight 175 at Boston’s Logan Airport to head west for the start of the team’s training camp in California. Accompanying him was Mark Bavis, a younger colleague who was also a scout for the Kings and a former professional hockey player. The men had just visited a farm team of Kings in Manchester, N.H.
Flight 175 never reached its destination, its trip ending catastrophically when the hijacked aircraft was crashed intentionally into the World Trade Center’s South Tower at 9:03 a.m.
In the wake of the deaths of Bailey and Bavis, the Kings organized a variety of memorial events. Another gesture included introduction of a new logo featuring the adjacent initials “A M,” in remembrance of the names Ace and Mark. The logo found its way onto uniforms and helmets worn by their grieving teammates.
In 2007, the Kings took a more explicit step to honor their late, esteemed senior scout by electing a lion — nicknamed “Bailey” — as their official mascot. Performed in costume by Tim Smith, the team’s senior manager of special events, “Bailey” became an iconic presence at the team’s arena thereafter. Concurrently, this bobblehead souvenir was introduced. Waving a Kings’ pennant, “Bailey” wore a white hockey jersey trimmed with black and silver featuring the initials of the team’s home city as well as its commemorative “A M” logo.
An authentic Los Angeles Kings jersey from 2001, produced in the purple and white colorways favored by the team at the time, is now on display in the Museum’s special exhibition, “Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11.” Like the leonine bobblehead, the uniform shirt serves as a tribute to the human loss suffered by the Kings. Brought to New York City in the weeks after 9/11, it acquired an overlay of signatures and condolence messages as it circulated to various host sites favored by hockey fans, first responders and others directly affected by the recent terrorist attacks.
By Jan Seidler Ramirez, Chief Curator & Executive Vice President for Collections, 9/11 Memorial Museum