VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We’re starting to see members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team return home, following last week’s bus crash which left 15 people dead in Saskatchewan.
Here in BC, this tragedy has brought hockey communities — especially in small towns — together.
There have been moments of silence at games, vigils, and fundraisers. Other teams and communities are signing banners and team photos, sending them to Humboldt with messages of support.
In Powell River, the Kings of the BCHL have raised nearly $7,000.
“We held a community event at our arena on Sunday afternoon,” says Alex Rawnsley, the director of broadcasting and digital media for the Kings, who also does the team’s play-by-play. “We opened the doors to the Hap Parker Arena, and we had a couple hundred fans turn out and were part of our end-of-year team photo, and we also invited the three local rep, minor hockey teams out.
“We had a moment of silence, played a short video honouring not only those who lost their lives, but those who have had their lives completely altered from this point forward.”
Rawnsley says the tragedy is resonating in Powell River. In smaller communities, the local hockey team and players often have a special relationship which isn’t often replicated in big cities.
“[The players] are recognized in town, and you talk with a bunch of them, and they go grocery shopping with their billet families and they’re stopped, and it’s a one-hour trek to the grocery store because everybody’s coming up and talking to them about how the games were on the weekend, or how this guy’s doing, or how they’re feeling after coming back from injury,” says Rawnsley.
“It’s certainly a great part of playing junior hockey in a community like Powell River.”
To give us a sense of how much local teams mean, Rawnsley describes how the Kings’ bus was greeted in Powell River upon returning home following the squad’s recent playoff elimination.
“We had our season end on Thursday night in Prince George,” says Rawnsley. “We drove past one of the elementary schools, and the entire elementary school was out screaming at the top of their lungs to welcome the kids home. They’d made signs, and they were lined up along the street.”
Elsewhere in the province, Osoyoos Coyotes president and owner Randy Bedard says people are coming up to him on the street to talk about the tragedy.
“It’s unimaginable,” says Bedard. “People are talking about it, they’re very saddened by it…it’s something that will never be forgotten and they realize that if something like this happened in their own community, the huge impact it would have more so than probably a larger centre.”
And there’s a personal link to the crash for Bedard, who notes how interlinked the hockey community is across the country.
“Sometimes you just get choked up and you don’t know what to say,” says Bedard. “Junior hockey circles are very, very small. We have a player on our club who lost one of his best friends. I knew the coach from being involved in the Northwest Junior B Hockey League years ago when he was in Peace River. The hockey circles are so small and it’s six degrees of separation. You know everyone, pretty much.”
The Coyotes are done for the season but Bedard says there are fundraising efforts planned for the 2018 Cyclone Taylor Cup, which will be played in Richmond from April 12-15.
A GoFundMe page has raised over $7.5 million to help the victims’ families and the survivors.