Humboldt brings hockey world together

If there’s one positive thing that can come out of a tragedy, it’s that it can bring people together.

Whether it’s a team, a school or a community, everyone tends to move closer to help provide support and help try to get past a terrible moment in their lives.

That is what is occurring in small Canadian town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan.

It’s hard to find any sports fan that isn’t aware of what happened last week, but for those who aren’t, here’s a brief summary.

The Humboldt Broncos, a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team from a town of less than 6,000 people, was traveling to a playoff game when their bus collided with a semi-trailer truck.

If you’ve seen the photos online, you can see how devastating the crash was. The front of the bus was destroyed, but the semi didn’t have as much damage. The photos from just a few days ago show how the top of the bus had been ripped off, mostly likely to extract victims, and the trailer had been removed from the truck while debris littered the area. The destruction was truly devastating.

On Wednesday, the death toll reached 16 with an initial survivor dying. Those victims include 10 players, two coaches, the team statistician, the play-by-play radio announcer, an athletic therapist and the team bus driver. About a dozen others were injured and one for sure is paralyzed.

Tragedies happen in sports frequently, but it’s hard to find one that can surpass this. The plane crash involving the Marshall football team back in the 1970s is the only one that immediately comes to mind.

Families of the deceased along with the town itself are hurting badly now, and it will take years for the pain to lessen, but the hockey world is doing to what it can to assist them.

A GoFundMe online campaign for the team had 81,000 people contribute and raised almost $5.8 million ($7.3 million Canadian) as of Tuesday.

Major hockey-related businesses like Bauer, along with NHL franchises and players, have also contributed thousands of dollars to the page. Other Canadian junior hockey teams gave money, while a PeeWee team gave its leftover fundraising efforts, which was more than $3,000 Canadian.

Others have decided to donate an even more precious product, their organs. One of the players who died in the crash, Logan Boulet, was an organ donor and his donation will help six people extend their lives.

This has helped lead to a massive increase in organ donation across Canada with many saying that Boulet’s choice to donate was the reason they decided to do the same.

Most of the hockey world in North America has decided to do something simpler, but perhaps more symbolic, to show their support. Teams, players, coaches, parents or just regular fans of the sport have been leaving their porch lights on and placing hockey sticks outside their front door as a way to show solidarity with the city of Humboldt and to help out the players in case they “need it.”

Some people place one or two sticks out front and others four or five. Big programs like the Northern Michigan University hockey team have placed 15 in its locker room in honor of the (at the time) 15 who died, including a whistle and board for head coach Darcy Haugan, a former Wildcat skater.

Some of the sticks on the porches are brand new, while some are dinged up and showing their age. Goalie sticks also stand proudly outside houses in addition to normal ones, and it’s not just sticks either.

Some people have placed headsets or microphones in honor of broadcaster Tyler Bieber or pens and paper for statistician Brody Hinz or athletic tape and bandage scissors for athletic therapist Dayna Brons. The light then glistens off the sticks or items as a way of penetrating the darkness created by the tragedy.

The pain of the Humboldt crash is still fresh and the victims of the crash will probably be remembered throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs as they were at the Frozen Four last weekend.

It’s hard to imagine anything that could help turn things around for the people most affected by the tragedy, but sometimes the smallest gesture can help, even when you don’t think it will have an effect.

The hockey world has come together after this horrible event and its solidarity is not only impressive, but beautiful.

Hopefully the Broncos will not be forgotten and the brotherhood that this tragedy helped enhance will not diminish any time soon.

So keep leaving your sticks on the porch. Every little gesture helps to heal.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.