My son started skating at age four. From the time he could safely navigate the ice without falling on his derriere, he was holding a hockey stick. We signed him up to play hockey when he was six and to the time he was sixteen, we attended every practice and every game he played in. There were overnight tournaments and long drives to remote Alberta towns; sitting in cold arenas, subsisting on stale hotdogs and hot chocolate while we watched him play. Our son was a light-weight compared to his other team mates, so he had to specialize in his skating technique and scoring prowess to maneuver around much taller and heavier defensemen.
I was a typical hockey mom, I guess. I cheered (perhaps too loudly) for my son when he got the puck. When he scored, well, let’s just say no one could mistake my unabashed joy at his accomplishment. I was told by his hockey coach to “tone it down” in one game but he knew that my enthusiasm would not be squelched. I made no apologies then, and I make no apologies now. That’s what hockey parents do! We support our hockey players!
Remembering those road trips, the many games and practices, the camaraderie amongst the team mates and parents in the stands, I understand and empathize with the many families who share in this hockey culture that permeates Canadian society. We are one, when it comes to hockey.
It’s taken me almost a week to process what happened last Friday. I join with most of Canada in experiencing the shock and grief over what happened in Saskatchewan. While travelling to a playoff hockey game, the Humboldt Broncos Junior Hockey Team, was involved in a horrific crash with a semi-trailer truck. Of the 29 people on board that bus, sixteen people did not survive including the head coach, bus driver, athletic therapist, team statistician and play-by-play commentator. Eleven promising young players were killed instantly, and thirteen more players were taken by air ambulance to hospitals. The first responders on the scene included parents who were traveling in their own vehicles to see the game their boys were scheduled to play that evening in Nipiwan. Instead, they came face-to-face with disaster that day.
This past week, news reports have been absolutely heart-wrenching. One in particular has resonated with me so profoundly I still can’t come to terms with it fully. When catastrophic injuries made firm identification of victims difficult, one of two families faced the unimaginable thinking their son had survived only to learn the boy they held bedside vigil with was not their boy at all but another family’s son. Their son, the goalie of the team, had passed and the boy in the bed, whose own parents had thought him dead now learned he had survived. Unimaginable!
The only girl on the bus, the team’s athletic therapist, passed away from her injuries yesterday. Another family donated their son’s organs so that six other people would soon be blessed by their son’s sacrifice. Another brave player facing life as a paraplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, has refused to let his injury prevent him from doing what he loves to do…play hockey! He has already expressed his intent to be a sledge hockey player in the Paralympics! The stories of this hockey team, it’s players, staff and families have permeated the media this past week and will continue to draw headlines in every paper across this country as we celebrate their lives in the days ahead.
Canadians have rallied in support of the team, their families, and the small town of Humboldt. In a variety of ways Canadians have expressed their sympathies by donating money, wearing team jerseys, and putting hockey sticks on front porches to show our nation’s solidarity in grieving with those who grieve. The Go Fund me page is close to raising $10 million dollars for the team’s families. NHL teams (and hockey teams around the world) have paid tribute by standing in a circle at centre ice in their respective hockey rinks and having a moment of silence for the Humboldt Broncos. As I said, we are one when it comes to hockey.
This editorial cartoon byrepresents in a powerful way how all Canadians feel about this tragedy:
This week, I have grieved along with all Canadians over this terrible loss. I have joined countless others in putting hockey sticks on my front porch. Today, team jerseys are being worn in schools and in places of business to honour the Broncos. Mostly though, I have spent a considerable amount of time praying for all those involved in the accident, the families, first responders and the community of Humboldt.
It is important to note that, along with all the support, there has been an ongoing, outpouring of prayer for the families during this time of great sorrow. In fact, something that has not escaped the notice of even the most liberal of our Canadian media is the fact that the Humboldt Broncos head coach, Darcy Haugan, was a man of great faith. When the community gathered last Saturday to share in their common grief at the Humboldt arena, and many, including our Prime Minister, Trudeau flew in to be in attendance, the Gospel message was clearly and honestly shared by the team’s chaplain, Sean Brandow. If people ask what “good” can come out such a terrible accident, I would point to all the ways Canadians have come together in common grief this week. I ask that you listen to Chaplain Brandow’s words and share it around the world.