It’s been a tough few days for everyone in our country, and it has been even tougher for those in the hockey family.
There is a collective feeling of heartbreak in our country because of the cultural value hockey has for us Canadians. Junior hockey, specifically, is engrained in the culture of small town Canada. Communities gather in these hockey cathedrals to support their local teams, and proudly represent their town. For the town of Humboldt, they not only lost their team; but they lost their brothers, their fathers, and their friends.
Road trips are a huge part of the culture in junior hockey. You get off that bus and you enter hostile environments, where junior rivalries are fierce and filled with animosity. It’s also a place where you build some of your closest friendships. It’s where after a big win your coach might buy the boys a case of beer for the trip back. It’s where you go from sitting at the front of the bus as a rookie to the back of the bus as a veteran. Not to mention the yearly tradition of rookie idol, where rookies are challenged to sing over the bus speaker for the staff and players to enjoy.
All those movies you watched, all the talks you had, and the countless games of cards you played. You quite literally come of age on the team bus. You find acceptance on it and you make lifelong friendships that cannot be broken.
The team bus is something that we don’t often consider sacred, but it really is. On those cold winter nights, you press your face up against the window looking out at nothing. All you can see is the flurries, and about 30 feet of lit road ahead of you. The rest is black. Your lives are literally in the hands of something bigger than yourself. You just expect to wake up at the rink and you could never imagine something going wrong.
But for the Humboldt Broncos, their bus didn’t make it to the rink. Now, their iconic team picture with the championship trophy, goes from being one of the best days of their hockey careers, to being associated with the worst day of their entire lives.
Right now, we all hurt for our country, for the province of Saskatchewan, and for the lives of the players, their families, and their friends. Also, not forgotten in all of this are the billets who provide a second home for these young players.
It’s hard not to reflect on all the road trips, all the memories, and all the relationships we have experienced throughout our lives in hockey. This could have been my team, it could have been your team, but it wasn’t. It happened in Humboldt Saskatchewan, and they need us now more than ever.
In times like these, we look to Canada’s storytellers. Last night on Hockey Night in Canada, Ron Maclean was able to put into words the things no one else could say. We are lucky to have him on our television sets every Saturday night.
We also remember the powerful words of Canada’s Troubadour – the late Gord Downie. He captured the beauty and strength that lies in the Prairies, and Canada as a whole. We must try to look forward and begin to heal.
From our hockey family to the people of Humboldt…
“Let’s just see what the morning brings.”