Recognizing many parallels to the rural Saskatchewan community, the Elmira Sugar Kings are among local organizations reacting to the tragedy that befell the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.
On April 6 a tractor-trailer collided with the team bus carrying 29 people on route to a playoff game. Both vehicles were obliterated on impact, killing 15 people, including two coaches, a radio reporter, the team statistician, the bus driver and ten young players.
Reaction to the horrific event was instantaneous and international. It was particularly poignant in places like Woolwich where the junior hockey team is the root of the community because it could have happened anywhere and to anyone. For many, the story hits too close to home.
“When I think of Humboldt, I see Elmira. A small, tight-knit community who rallies behind their junior hockey team,” said Dave O’Donoghue president of the Elmira Sugar Kings. “I see young men who come to town from all around to play junior hockey, billeting with local families, who instantly become part of the community. Elmira becomes their home, not just where they play hockey, and they become part of Elmira.”
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Humboldt, Saskatchewan has a population of nearly 6,000 people, with one high school. They advertise church concerts and hold a street festival in the summer – a hockey community, they rally around their team much like the community here at home. For hockey players, the bus trips are a cherished tradition in the junior world, a time to bond, a time away from the public eye, a time to come together as a team.
“When thinking of this horrific tragedy in those terms, I am truly at a loss for words. Thinking of the grief the whole town of Humboldt shares – the unthinkable devastation the survivors, the first responders and all the families have seen– it’s impossible not to get choked up. To think this could be any junior team bus across Canada, including our own, well I can’t even let my mind go there,” said O’Donoghue.
“The bus is like a sanctuary to a hockey player, a place to socialize on the way to the game, and wind down on the way home, a place where the bonds of lifelong friendships are strengthened and where everyone can just relax and enjoy being together with nothing else to do but hang out. It is unfathomable to think something so tragic can happen when you’re somewhere so happy and free.”
Tonight (Thursday) the Caledonia Corvairs will be travelling to the WMC to face off against the Kings in what will be their first home game in the Sutherland Cup semi-finals. They will have a pregame tribute and moment of silence, in addition in conjunction with the Jersey Day at schools across Canada being held to show support for the Humboldt Broncos, there will be free admission to all children wearing jerseys to the game.
The Booster Club will also be donating the proceeds from the 50/50 draw and the team will be matching this donation (up to $1,500) to the GoFundMe campaign to help the Humboldt Broncos families.
“On behalf of the organization, we extend our deepest sympathies to the entire Humboldt Broncos family and community and we will continue to send our thoughts, support and strength to them throughout the long road ahead,” he said.