Canada’s hockey culture like being part of ‘a big family’
The recent crash of the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus has touched people across the continent, and beyond — and for a number of reasons.
Besides the fact of the tragic circumstances — 16 people dead, most of them young players with the Saskatchewan-based junior hockey team, including 21-year-old Logan Boulet from Lethbridge — the situation is something many people can identify with.
Throughout the course of a year, there are countless sports teams travelling the highways to and from games.
In most cases, the journeys are uneventful.
But when something goes wrong and a mishap occurs, it’s a stark reminder to parents and those involved with sports organizations about the potential that exists for danger.
Longtime local hockey fans will remember the crash in December 1986 that killed four members of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.
The incident occurred the season after the team left Lethbridge to return to the Saskatchewan city where the franchise had originated.
In January 2008, a crash killed seven members of a high school basketball team from Bathurst, New Brunswick, along with a teacher.
It was the deadliest crash involving a sports team in Canada until last week’s crash of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus.
As often happens in such cases, the Humboldt tragedy has inspired an outpouring of support and generosity from the public.
An online fundraising campaign had raised more than $5 million for the victims and their families as of early last week.
It has also prompted a campaign in which people have placed hockey sticks on their front porches to pay tribute to the 16 victims.
During the weekend, National Hockey League teams paid tribute to the junior hockey league team too, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks all wearing Humboldt Broncos decals on their helmets during their games on earlier this month.
The Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks also sported jerseys with the word “BRONCOS” written across their name plates during their game.
Fans of Canadian musician Tom Cochrane have found his song “Big League” resonates with them in this tragic situation.
The song was written from the perspective of a father whose hockey-playing son has his dreams ended in a crash involving a truck driving in the wrong lane.
In a Canadian Press story Monday, Cochrane pointed out his grasp of Canada’s deeply rooted hockey culture, having been a hockey player in his own younger days.
“It’s a big family in this country,” said Cochrane, who grew up in Lynn Lake, Man. and now lives in Oakville, Ont.
“The game is a galvanizing force on that junior level. It defines the country more than even the big cities do.”
It will certainly take time for those with loved ones connected to the team to put this tragedy behind them.
We can only hope that healing will come, and that the joy of hockey — and of sports — at this grassroots level will bloom again.
Hockey at the amateur level is perhaps the purest form of the game and those who play it — and watch it — are participating in a Canadian tradition that binds people and communities.
As Cochrane says, it’s a big family.