By Michael Christianson
It’s hard to come to terms with what happened last Friday to the Humboldt Broncos. The team of young men were on their way to a playoff game when the unthinkable happened. The response from the hockey community and the country was swift and inspiring. Close to seven million dollars has been raised on the gofundme campaign as of Tuesday morning. Canadians across the country are thinking of Humboldt this week, stepping up to support a community many of us have never been to.
I first saw the news Friday night while browsing the hockey section of Reddit. Details were few but already you could tell a larger community was going to be affected by this tragedy; commenters who knew someone on the bus waiting for details, hockey fans offering condolences and support, everyone in the hockey community would be saddened to hear the news.
On Saturday I was set to attend the final home game of the Winnipeg Jets, taking on the Chicago Blackhawks. Throughout the day there were interviews with the players and coaches about what had happened to the Broncos and more and more you could see just how connected the hockey community is. Jets broadcaster Brian Munz grew up following his hometown team the Humboldt Broncos. The Jets logo on social media changed colours to the Broncos green and gold. Before the game the competing teams and the NHL donated $25,000 each to the game’s 50/50 draw, the proceeds of which were donated to the gofundme page; the final pot was over $230,000. A moment of silence was held before the game and during the game each player on both teams had Broncos on their nameplates, a flipping of tradition said that tonight they play for the name on the back of their jerseys.
It was a humbling game to attend, chants of ‘Let’s go Broncos’ filled Bell MTS Place.
Moments of silence happened at arenas all across the country last week, and as one video from Sweden showed, across the world.
This tragedy touches anyone who has played the game, watched the game, taken those long bus rides to other games, sharpened skates, taught someone to skate. There is a fabric of small town hockey teams that weaves itself across this country, teaches boys to be men and inspires kids to be like their hockey heroes, whether those heroes are playing on TV in the NHL or playing down the road at the local arena, hockey is in all of us. Even a friend of mine who likes to grumble when I don’t want to go out because I am busy watching hockey was humbled by the hockey community this week.
A lot goes on behind the scenes to keep this game going, and the tragedy strikes deep when we can all sit back and think ‘That could have been us, our community, our team, our friends, our boys.’
The Dryden GM Ice Dogs stood next to their rivals the Fort Frances Lakers before their game Sunday with a green spotlight illuminating them. Team President Mike Svienson dedicated the game to all those lost, and those recovering in Saskatchewan and throughout hockey worldwide.
It was a scene and sentiment reflected throughout the hockey community and the country, support and stories of solidarity continue this week.
Hockey is an important game to so many and with the playoffs in full swing across the country we will take more moments to reflect, in between the reflection we will cheer for our teams and maybe taunt our rivals, but we will all remember, it’s just a game.