The Solar Bears are in the middle of an off-season of change, during which the front office is getting shuffled and decisions are being made to find the right balance of veterans and prospects for next year's lineup. But in the middle of it all, reality intruded in a hard, unavoidable way.
Coaches Anthony Noreen and John Snowden were asked to join the ranks of another sports team, the Orlando City MLS team, as they paid an important and necessary tribute to the 49 victims of the shooting that took place on June 12. In the first part of the ceremony, Noreen and Snowden helped to carry a banner reading "ORLANDO UNITED" out onto the field. They joined survivors and first responders, helping to spread the message that Orlando's community stands for love and tolerance.
In the stands, fans were asked to dress like an enormous rainbow, wearing a different color of shirt depending upon their section, and given banners that showed their section color. Nearly every fan complied, some of them wearing the Orlando United shirt produced as a fundraiser by the combined sports teams of the city. Players took the field for the initial memorial wearing these shirts as well.
And at the 49th minute of the game, in the second half, the entire game ground to a halt for a moment of silence. The victims were also remembered by 49 empty seats mid-field, marked with a rainbow of balloons.
The game, Orlando City vs. San Jose, ended with a 2-2 tie. Bob Holtzman of ESPN said of the event, "It's been quite an experience being in this city this weekend, just the unity and the kindness you feel, not just at the game, but at the memorial, and really everywhere downtown. I've been a lot of places, I've covered a lot of events over the years, but I'm not sure I've seen anything quite as memorable as the match here last night."