By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines.
Last Friday, the team bus of the Humboldt Broncos collided with a semi south of Nipawin. By the time the dust settled, 15 people, including multiple players and staff of the Broncos had died.
The unfortunate thing about this event is that there’s no measure that brings closure. There’s no one change that will somehow make things better, no spoonful of sugar that can make this bitter medicine go down.
So, where can the world find solace? It can look to the strength of the Broncos and their supporters.
Forward Ryan “Straz” Straschnitzki, undeterred by his injuries – he is currently paralyzed from the chest down – has already said he wants to play for Canada’s Paralympic sledge hockey team. Logan Boulet saved six people’s lives when his own ended by registering as an organ donor. While they were still in hospital, a photo of Nick Shumlanski, Derek Patter and Graysen Cameron went viral, even holding hands and raising their fists.
Shumlanski – fresh off of playing the better part of three seasons in Flin Flon – walked away from the wreck, and was able to call his family from the scene of the accident. They came immediately to help the wounded and dying.
In the trade that sent Shumlanski to Humboldt, the Bombers received future considerations – players or assets to be selected this summer. There’s a good chance that, had the bus not crashed, one or two of the players on the bus would be in maroon and white jerseys next season.
What happened on that highway has been labelled as a nightmare. It’s not that. Somehow, it’s worse. Bad dreams for players, parents, coaches and volunteers are mostly limited to things like a hard-fought loss in a rivalry game, a sudden injury in a routine situation, screwing up a key play at a key moment.
Not this. Nothing like this.
The hockey world somehow manages to be incredibly large and microscopically small. Odds are high that someone you know or love was either on the bus or knew somebody on the bus.
Through tears, panic, frantic texts and calls to see if your friends or loved ones made it out, there is the realization that things will never be the same.
Despite the anguish, people came together to show support – little gestures with big feeling behind them. Wearing green to show solidarity with the community or leaving hockey sticks out on the porch.
It may sound like a cliché to call hockey a brotherhood, but when something awful happens and there’s a man or woman down, the group at large comes together.
In the case of Humboldt, some people have shown their strength with their wallets, donating more than $7 million to a Gofundme page pledging to finance the affected families and community.
Others have organized vigils or launched fundraisers. Still others, myself included, have registered as organ and tissue donors, inspired by Boulet’s example.
Strength isn’t measured by a number of reps on a squat rack or how many line skates you can do before your legs scream “uncle.”
Strength, in any form, manifests itself when people need it most.
Are we #HumboldtStrong?
We can only hope.
We owe it to one another.
Eric Westhaver is a reporter and sports fan from Flin Flon, Man.