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'A healing culture:' SJHL to resume playoffs after deadly crash

Last Updated Apr 11, 2018 at 7:29 pm PST

At the scene of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in northeastern Saskatchewan. (Greg Harper, City News)

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has decided to resume its playoffs

The Nipawin Hawks will play the Estevan Bruins in the SJHL final

Funerals for victims of Humboldt Broncos crash will start to take place over the next few days

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has announced its playoffs will resume, despite that deadly crash involving the Humboldt Broncos team bus near Nipawin last week.

For Sportsnet 650‘s Andrew Walker, the decision comes as no surprise. “I think it’s a hockey culture thing, it’s a healing culture thing,” he says. “From people I talked to, the league was in a situation where people were going to be upset no matter what they did. And I think at the end of the day, life moves on, you have to move on.”

He admits it will probably be a difficult task for those playing in the final.

“It’s such a small world so everybody knows each other in that world, in that hockey world,” he tells NEWS 1130. “You would hope that being on the ice is an escape.”

Walker describes the SJHL, which he feels is handling the tragedy as best it can, as much smaller than say the Western Hockey League or a professional league. Keeping that in mind, he says it’s not prepared to deal with a situation like Friday’s tragedy and believes it was no doubt a very difficult decision to make.

“I worked in it for a little bit but the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, it teeters on bankruptcy year in and year out. Teams fold… It is not necessarily equipped to deal with issues like this, and to deal with the media fall out, and to deal with interview requests, and to deal with controversy. It’s the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, it is small time.”

Moving forward with the playoffs means the Nipawin Hawks will play the Estevan Bruins. The league has not yet released its schedule.

Walker says the crash has definitely left an impact on everyone within the hockey community. “I don’t think any team will ever get on a bus again without thinking about something. I know I certainly won’t. But that’s the frustrating part of this, is that there was nothing to be reactionary to… There’s just nothing you can do, and it just happened. And that’s why it’s so devastating because there’s really nowhere to direct your hurt and anger to.”

The #HumboldtStrong movement has brought together people around the country, both from within and outside of the hockey community. Since the crash, millions of dollars have been raised.

The SJHL is a junior A hockey league, made up of 12 different teams.

(Courtesy @HumboldtBroncos via Twitter)

Playoff opponents trying to come to grips with the tragedy

As hockey teams in Saskatchewan grieve, they’re also trying to get back into a routine.

The Nipawin Hawks — the playoff opponent of the Humboldt Broncos — have now skated for the first time since Friday’s bus crash that killed 16 people and left more than a dozen others hurt.

Barret Kropf is one of the chaplains providing help in Saskatchewan. He tells us he was in Nipawin last night to meet with the players.

“I spent a couple hours with those boys and just talked about their next steps, how they’re healing, and how they’re going to keep moving forward.”

Kropf says Hawks players are asking “Why them and not us?”

“They’ve got lots of good buddies… Several of the Hawks players have been seen at the bedsides of the Broncos players.”

Kropf has been focusing on listening.

“There are no words that we were going to say that was going to bring any meaning to the tragedy. So, you just listen and love. That’s probably the two biggest things that we’ve been doing — whether it’s been in Humboldt or back in the hospital in Saskatoon.”

Kropf, who is from Langley, notes this week will be an emotional one, as funerals start to take place.

“The first one is tomorrow for the play-by-play guy, [Tyler] Bieber,” he tells us.

He will be at this weekend’s funeral for Humboldt Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, who was a personal friend.