Hockey is a national pastime for millions of Canadians and enjoyed by millions of others around the world. Hockey Moms and Dads sacrifice weekend sleep to hustle their children to the cold ice pads housed in arenas throughout the Canadian landscape. While most do it for the love of the game, many young boys aspire to be the next Sydney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Wayne Gretzy or Bobby Orr. And on Saturday evening millions of Canadians sit by the television or streamline on their ipads to watch the iconic Hockey Night in Canada (HNC) hosted by Ron MacLean and Don Cherry. It is a ritual of sort because hockey is in our DNA and HNC is one of the most watched TV programs in the past 40 years. Many of the players on the Humboldt Broncos Junior A Hockey Team would have surely tuned into HNC on Saturday April 7th, 2018. It was not to be!
Humboldt is a small city with a population of 5,500 situated in the province of Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is a prairie province with large tracts of flat lands and fertile soil to grow Wheat and Soybeans . It has large beef cattle ranches similar to those you would find in Texas. It gets cold in Humboldt in the winter and I mean very cold with temperatures at times at -30F below zero. Great hockey weather! Humboldt has a high Scandinavian population with over 57% of German descent and a strong contingent of Irish and Ukrainian. They love their hockey.
The Humboldt Broncos Hockey team is group of young men ages 16-21 playing at an elite level of Junior Hockey . They are supported by Coaches, Trainers, Equipment Managers and legions of fans in this small rural community. Like most their age, they were chasing their dream playing this beautiful sport. On April 6th , 2018 this dream came to a crashing halt.
They were travelling buy Coach Bus to a rival town of Nipawan , two hours northwest, to play game 5 of a best of seven series when they entered an intersection and were T-Boned by an 18 wheeler Transport Truck. The truck ran a Stop Sign. 16 of 29 on board the bus were killed including- bus driver, general manager, assistant coach, radio commentator, a volunteer , the club’s female trainer and 10 players. News of the crash received National and International News Coverage. Condolences from dignitaries, Celebrities, The Queen of England, The President of the United States along with millions of Canadians. The horror and shock of this tragedy was felt throughout the Humboldt Community and Hockey World. Lives shattered and lives lost but it’s effects resonated across North America and indeed the world. This accident could have been any team, in any league, on any given day and in any given sport. It’s bigger than the game, it’s about community and family.
Out of this tragedy came an amazing out pouring of love and compassion for the community of Humboldt. There is grittiness and practicality in these people. The struggle for life and the effort to being sustained is in the DNA surrounding Humboldt and it’s loss. They are resilient citizens and while they are one year removed from this tragic accident they carry on day by day with the will to overcome the grief and pain that left it’s ugly stain on the community.
So much has been written, So much has been said; So many hearts broken. So many tears shed. Yet in their hour of darkness, The light of the world shone; With gifts of Compassion, FOREVER- HUMBOLDT STRONG!