Hockey team remembered


Fatal crashes occur so infrequently that it is easy for them to shock people.

A collision last Friday between a tractor trailer carrying peat moss and a bus carrying members of a hockey team has had a harrowing effect on Humboldt, Sask., where the team is based, and throughout Canada and the hockey world.

The cause is being discerned through an ongoing re-creation of the crash. Meanwhile, the ensuing days, hours, minutes and seconds are being dominated by grief counselling, vigils, tributes, shrines, prayers and condolences.

Hockey has a unique culture. Canadians take pride in how good Canadian hockey players are and how successful they have been, whether it is the Stanley Cup or the international theatre.

Prairie Provinces like Saskatchewan are being thought of in a special way in terms of the NHL players they have produced and the way communities are bound by their hockey teams. Those communities are home to outdoor rinks where youngsters have been found braving the often bone-chilling weather conditions.

This time, it was members of the Humboldt Broncos — travelling in the comfort of a heated bus, anticipating a big game in Nipawin, Sask., — whose lives were horrifically interrupted.

Pictou County is not immune to times like this. Advocate columnist Hugh Townsend pays tribute to the Broncos and supporters, while recalling two deadly incidents affecting local teams in 1954 and 1984.

Memories of one fatality from the first crash and four from the second one linger; and many remember the winter of 1984 when three members of the Pictou County Bantam AAA hockey team and the mother of one of them perished near Amherst. News of the collision raised emotions. The pain and sorrow was deep and lasting.

Church services formed one focal point, as it was at Trinity United Church when Rev. Donald Murray described those attending as “a grieving, stricken people.”

What often unfolds from tragedy is how it affects so many facets of community life and how other communities and hockey franchises can identify with them.

Volunteers make teams like the Broncos function and succeed, just like their Pictou County counterparts: the Weeks Jr. A Crushers. Coaches, trainers and sponsors are among those who perform such a vital role so that fans will keep supporting the teams.

We have found in the days following the crash how individuals and families who billet hockey team members bond to the point where they become like family and their relationships endure long after their hockey careers and playing days have passed.

This is a time to remember how hard people work for hockey teams like the Humboldt Broncos, how their lives and their emotions rise and fall with the winding road of games, practices, recovery from injuries and the challenges that or may not pertain to the sport.

It is a time for reverence, for drawing strength from one another and knowing when to allow life to pause and when to let it flow.