The hockey world was shaken to its core late Friday when a bus carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos a team in the Tier II Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) was hit by a tractor-trailer on.
As of this moment there are 15 dead including the bus driver and the head coach, several of the players and staff.
I have covered the game for many years both minor league and the NHL. I found out from the very beginning that the hockey community, though be it small, is tight knit and when something like this happens, it draws strength from within.
I am old enough to remember 30 years ago when another team from Saskatchewan, the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, was involved in an accident on the Trans-Canada Highway heading to a game. One of those players who survived that crash was a player by the name of Joe Sakic.
When something like this happens it hits deep and hurts deep not only for the players but for fans all over the world that love the game.
Unlike the NHL, junior teams in Canada as well as in the United States and collegiate teams, their transportation is via the bus. In a sport that plays in the winter time teams have to fight blowing snow, freezing rain, and other wintry conditions to get to games.
In most cases those bus rides are long, even very long, however it is how a team gets close together and forge that close bond for one another. As fans, you feel for the parents and siblings that see their sons leave home at an early age to pursue a dream. A dream to play in the National Hockey League.
They leave their hometowns for foreign places and stay with families in that town. It is an easy life, but when you talk to any player who has made it, he would not trade those trips on a bus for anything in the world.
A town like Humboldt, Saskatchewan is the quintessential hockey town. Its population is about 6,000 people. Their arena seats about 1,900 people and when there is a home game everyone tries to get there. It is their meeting place for six months on those cold winter nights.
When a tragedy like this happens, you think and you grieve. You grieve for the parents and for the town. These were 16-19 year old boys with their lives ahead of them
And now it is gone. All gone.
We might never know what really happened. But one thing is for certain. As CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge tweeted earlier today
“We are all Broncos”
And that we are.