Weekly Feature

2018-04-11 / Editorials

Tragedy in Saskatchewan stuns all hockey families

Managing Editor

No race for the Hanbidge Cup or dreams of the Stanley Cup. For 15 players and coaches who represented the Humboldt Broncos, no more memories and dreams of their beloved sport: ice hockey.

A bus carrying the Junior A hockey team collided with a tractor-trailer Friday evening. Fifteen people were killed and at least 14 others injured.

The crash occurred around 5 p.m. Friday north of Tisdale, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as the team was headed for the town of Nipawin for a playoff game. The town is about equidistant between Calgary and Winnipeg.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is one of 10 Junior A leagues spread across Canada, the elite amateur level for players 16 to 21.

But in a community where the temperature is not going to reach much higher than 20 degrees Fahrenheit this week, it is the warmth of the international hockey community that gives it the strength to carry on.

Junior hockey is life for a small community such as Humboldt, with its 5,600 residents devoted to the green and gold.

“The accident resonated across Western Canada, and all the country, where numerous small towns provide the next step up hockey’s ladder for promising junior players,” reported The New York Times. At a church, a few blocks from the arena where the Broncos played, a pancake breakfast on Sunday morning turned into a fundraiser for the families of the dead and the injured.

I became a hockey dad of the house league variety in 1999. Our one road trip that first season was to Burlington, Ontario, for the annual Friendship Tournament. The boys were wide-eyed with wonder as they had their first taste of what it was like to play in the game’s home and native land.

So were the dads.

My son eventually joined the ranks of the Amherst AAA travel team but never had a bus trip until he made the Williamsville South varsity as a freshman. I did not realize it at the time, but that step was part of letting go, letting him fend for himself.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare. Anyone in hockey who goes through that stage where they ride the bus, later on they look back and talk about it being the best part,” said Kelly McCrimmon, owner of the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings.

The youthful players were housed – billeted, to use the vernacular – with generous Humboldt families that became their second families. To these men and women, the loss cannot be measured.

David and Rene Cannon were hosts to two players killed in the crash, according to The Times.

“We aren’t built to not get attached,” Rene Cannon told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“We take every single boy that’s ever come into our house right into our hearts and into our family. They’re children of our heart from the moment they walk in our door. We don’t just feed them and house them; we care about them.”

“Some kids dream of playing in the NHL. But if you are from Humboldt, you dream first of becoming a Humboldt Bronco,” said journalist Matthew Gourlie.

Whether you are part of a hockey family or not, never forget these names:

Adam Herold, Connor Lukan, Evan Thomas, Jacob Leicht, Jaxon Joseph, Logan Boulet, Logan Hunter, Logan Schatz, Stephen Wack, Parker Tobin, Brody Hinz, Darcy Haugen, Glen Doerksen, Mark Cross and Tyler Bieber.

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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