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Humboldt: An Unthinkable Tragedy Hits Home

Two weeks ago, I awoke to the unthinkable tragedy of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Humboldt, which plays in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, was en route to a playoff game when the team bus collided with a tractor-trailer. Fifteen people died that late afternoon in the accident. Ten players, two coaches, the radio announcer, the statistician, and the bus driver perished. Later in the week, Dayna Brons, the team’s athletic therapist and only female on the bus, passed away from her injuries.

The accident hit me hard. Really hard. I found myself crying every time I heard or read a story about the accident. I have literally spent thousands of hours on a bus between hockey and baseball trips. It could have been one of Maine’s teams. The Maine women’s basketball team was involved in a bus crash several years ago. It was a miracle that nobody was killed.

The bus is supposed to be a safe place. A place for bonding. We’d all get on the bus and relax. Guys would play cards in the back. There was usually a movie playing. I can’t count on two hands the number of times I’ve seen Slap Shot. The movie was a rite of passage on a hockey road trip. The photo of a broken Slap Shot DVD lying in the mud amongst the debris of the Humboldt crash site was haunting. I’m sure many of the same activities that happened on our bus were happening on the Humboldt bus that fateful afternoon.

We had some great bus drivers while I was at Maine, and I always felt blessed. Jerry Cyr drove the hockey team for many years. In recent years, it has been Don Paul driving. They drove through some awful weather. We’d always travel back to Orono right after the game. We play 7 PM games in Boston, Providence, Lowell, and Amherst. Following the game, we’d pack the bus and head north, usually around 10 PM. It wasn’t more than an hour or so that most of the guys on the team would be asleep. I’d typically wake up when we got off the interstate in Orono, anywhere between 2:30 – 4:00 a.m.

We’d take it for granted that we were home. Home safe and sound. I think back to all the times that we traveled in ice and snow. This accident could have happened to any team.

These 16 lives were cut tragically short doing what they loved in a place that is supposed to feel so safe. The Humboldt team has united the hockey world, all coming together to show support for the rural Western Canadian province.

TSN Broadcast Brian Munz, a Humboldt native, and former team broadcaster, had a friend text him a picture following the crash. His friend left a hockey stick outside his front door and texted “Leaving it out on the porch tonight. The boys might need it… wherever they are.” Munz thought it a good idea and did the same then tweeted about it. The idea when viral. All across the world sticks have been placed outside doors with #HumboldtStrong and #SticksoutforHumbolt.

I placed my hockey stick outside my door last week. Haven’t been able to bring it in. It’s the smallest thing that I can do for something that hits so close to home.

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