Hockey world mourns Humboldt bus crash
The president of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team Kevin Garinger speaks during the evening vigil in Humboldt, Sask., Sunday. Fifteen people travelling with the Humboldt Broncos SJHL hockey team are dead, and many injured when their bus was collided with a semi-trailer 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, Sask. (Michelle Berg / Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
Every dressing room I have been in over the last 16 years has described themselves as a family.
In the everyday it feels like a cliché, but it is nevertheless true. They go to war together, they bond together, they fight together – on and off the playing field. They are brothers and sisters and the coaching staff are their parents.
In the junior hockey world in Canada, that family has tentacles that stretch out through a community and the rest of North America.
In Camrose, as a junior A city, we know this all to well. There's a legion of volunteers that make the Kodiaks run. There are dozens who have been billets over the last 21 years, welcoming boys and young men from across the country into their homes and into their hearts. There are thousands of fans who become emotionally invested in not just the team but the players themselves. They represent the crest on the front of the sweater but more importantly they represent the city. The players are also in the community volunteering at schools and other events and giving of themselves.
The names on the back of each of their jerseys, as has been said a number of times the past few days, each represents another family from all parts of the continent.
This week that expansive family is hurting.
The Humboldt Broncos represented that idyllic, quintessential fabric of Canada. They were the boys on the bus riding the steel lung to the brightest of futures and dreams that many have but few will ever realize.
This nightmare that we, as a country, are in now will take a while to end.
There are currently no answers, and it will be a long time before any are found or released.
What we do know is a semi carrying a load of peat moss from Carrot River, Sask., to Alberta, blew through stop sign at an intersection on Highway 35 outside of Tisdale, Sask., and ripped through the Broncos' bus headed for Nipawin for Game 5 of their Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff series.
As I write this column on Monday, there are 15 dead and 14 more who were injured, two have since been released from the hospital. The driver of the semi walked away with out injury.
The first thing that came to my mind were other tragedies of similar sporting nature like the Swift Current Broncos bus crash in 1986 that killed four players, the Marshall University plane crash that killed all 75 people on board in 1970, and the Texas A&M bonfire collapse that killed 12 members of the student body on Thanksgiving weekend in 1999 as they prepared to host the University of Texas Longhorns football team.
These were people taken far too early in the name of sports. They represented a youthful drive and spark that was inspiring that was suddenly snuffed out.
By horrible coincidence, this week's edition of the Camrose Canadian also contains our Salute to Minor Hockey pull out section. In it are the sometimes smiling faces of about 500 boys and girls, many of whom dream of one day playing junior hockey as they chase down college scholarships, professional opportunities, or wearing the Maple Leaf on an international stage.
My dream was to do just that when I was 12 years old, but never got close to even playing for the Broncos or Kodiaks.
The challenge is in how we continue on.
Some will relay on their faith, some will find a way to celebrate the lives of those lost, many will struggle for a long time.
We continue on by dropping the puck on next season, and the season after that. At this point it appears that is Humboldt's plan as well.
This is an emotional scar that may never truly heal, and the next time a team boards a bus for a far-flung locale for any sporting event, I know it will be done with a little extra trepidation.
Let that scar remind us of that future and hope that the Broncos represented.