Those fireworks that explode and then explode a second time into smaller fireworks, they streaked the black sky with fiery webs of red, white and blue.

Hockey players were escorted by bagpipes to a pristine, windswept rink positioned on a 35,760-square-foot graphic of an aircraft carrier, itself situated in the centre of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

A smartly creased military marching band’s brass instruments sang and gleamed under four thick poles of football stadium lights as tall and bright as a boy thinks his heroes are. They beamed like they’d never dim.

"U-S-A! U-S-A!" group chants popped up here and there, as did members of the national women’s team, gold medallions swaying form their necks.

Two Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets zinged overhead, one piloted by a former midshipman/goalie at the U.S. Naval Academy, and they shook a packed house like a windstorm just as "The Star-Spangled Banner" hit its final note and the 500 service members lining rink’s perimeter lowered their salutes.

It was National Anthem Day, after all.

"If you’re a North American, this one’s more special just because of the men and women that look after you and give you all the privileges you have in your life by keeping you safe and living in a democracy," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.

"You think about heroes, there’s lots of different heroes in your lifetime. But people that put themselves in harm’s way to look after you, those are the heroes. So, I think that’s important while we’re here we understand that and recognize that."

And so it was that sometime after Team USA’s Olympic-gold-medal-winning skip John Shuster delivered the ceremonial puck by curling a rock from the high slot smack on the centre-ice button and the Toronto Maple Leafs were photographed in custom uniforms whiter than the ice, hockey happened. And the vast majority of it happened in the Leafs’ end.