Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Outpouring of support for Humboldt Broncos shows humanity at its best

A fan in Swift Current puts up a sign to support the Humboldt Broncos.
    The capacity for humanity to care might have hit new heights in the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
    On April 6, the bus carrying the Broncos to play a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game in Nipawin was involved in a collision with a semi-truck just north of Tisdale. The unthinkable event resulted in the deaths of 10 Broncos players including captain Logan Schatz, Adam Herold, Conner Lukan, Evan Thomas, Jacob Leicht, Jaxon Joseph, Logan Boulet, Logan Hunter, Stephen Wack or Parker Tobin.
    Head coach and general manager Darcy Haugen, assistant coach Mark Cross, play-by-play voice Tyler Bieber, stats expert Brody Hinz, athletic therapist Dayna Brons and bus driver Glen Doerksen were all among the total of 16 people who were killed.
    The 13 survivors from the bus all sustained injuries, and as of the last update from the Saskatchewan Health Authority on Tuesday, nine are still in hospital including two in critical condition.
The Humboldt Broncos logo set for the vigil held on April 8.
    In the 12 days that have followed since the accident, the outpouring of support and love shown for the storied junior A franchise and the community of Humboldt has been unprecedented in an outstanding way.
    The depth of this tragedy is hard to comprehend and the sorrow the family and friends have to go through is unimaginable. On the other end of the roller-coaster, the way the province of Saskatchewan, Canada as a country and people I dare say from around the world have united to support all those effected has shown a warmth people can have for each other on a scale that likely has never been seen.
    A GoFundMe campaign started by Humboldt residents Sylvie Kellington and Caitlin Hergott in the immediate aftermath of the accident had originally the small goal of raising funds to cover parking costs for the families visiting hospitals. The campaign is slated to wrap up today at 11:59 p.m. Saskatchewan time has surpassed $15.1-million with donations coming from over 141,900 individuals and entities.
A display supporting the Humboldt Broncos in a Saskatchewan farm yard.
    It is by far the largest GoFundMe campaign in the history of Canada and ranks among the top three GoFundMe campaigns ever in the history of the world. The donated funds will be transferred to a newly created non-profit known as Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc. An advisory committee is being established to make recommendations for the allocation of those funds.
    Fundraisers and donations outside of the GoFundMe campaign will go to the newly established Humboldt Strong Community Foundation. Its mission will be to support the Humboldt players, employees, families and volunteers as well as first responders, emergency personnel, teams, athletes, organizations and communities affected by the accident and its aftermath.
    On April 27 at 7 p.m., a fundraising concert will be held at SaskTel Centre featuring high profile country music singers Dallas Smith, Jess Moskaluke, Brett Kissel, Gord Bamford, Chad Brownlee and the Hunter Brothers. Tickets for the concert are $65. The show is being run by the Country Thunder Music Festival, which runs the annual music festival in Craven, Sask.
#SticksOutForHumboldt at Swift Current Broncos bus crash memorial.
    The Broncos bus accident resonates with people due to its unfairness including the fact the players ranged in age from 16 to 21 and were at the beginning of making their biggest impacts in life. They were in transit to go play a game.
    In Canada, the majority of people have traveled by bus to go play in a sporting event or are connected to someone who does travel to participate a sporting event by bus.
    If you travel the highways in Saskatchewan at the moment, you will inevitably find a sign offering support for the Humboldt Broncos. It seems like we have all left our #StickOutForHumboldt at some time over the past 12 days. That was a moment that gained its traction from Humboldt product and current play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets Brian Munz posting that exact gesture on social media.
    The SJHL resumed its playoffs with the Hawks taking on the Estevan Bruins in the best-of-seven league championship series to capture the Canalta Cup. The Hawks lead the series 2-1, and the first three contests have allowed people to continue to pour out their hearts for the Broncos and relish in celebrating the game.
A  store front window in downtown Swift Current.
    Out in Swift Current, the Humboldt Broncos bus accident takes on a whole other unique meaning. The Swift Current Broncos suffered through a single-vehicle team bus crash on December 30, 1986 resulting the deaths of players Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff. 
    The Swift Current bus flew off the highway having hit a patch of black ice shortly after leaving town on route to a road game in Regina to play the Pats.
    Since that time, Swift Current, a small city of just over 16,600 people, has come a long way and still continues on an uncharted path on a lifetime of healing. A lot of the characteristics of Swift Current are similar to Humboldt, which has a population of about 6,000, in that both places are close knit farming communities with big loyalties to their junior hockey teams.
A sign at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current.
    In another connection, the Humboldt Broncos were born in 1970 as the junior A affiliate of the Swift Current Broncos. From that link, the Humboldt franchise gained its name and the green and gold colour scheme that used to also be worn by the Swift Current franchise.
    Last weekend, the sticks were out for Humboldt at the Swift Current Broncos bus crash memorial.
    Inside of Swift Current and the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex during playoff games for the WHL’s Broncos, you didn’t have to look far to see a sign of support for Humboldt and the commonalities the two Broncos teams share.
    In Moose Jaw, a local company that prints T-shirts has been going overtime producing T-shirts to support the Humboldt Broncos and raising fund to help those involved with the Humboldt bus accident.
    It is easy to encounter a sign advertising Thursday’s benefit game in Moose Jaw to support the Humboldt Broncos set for 7:30 p.m. at Mosaic Place. The game is being played in the memory of deceased Humboldt player Evan Thomas, whose father Scott played for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors from 1987 to 1991.
A sign for Humboldt Broncos benefit game in Moose Jaw on Thursday.
    Evan played midget AAA hockey from 2015 to 2017 for the Moose Jaw Generals.
    Gregg Drinnan, who is “the Dean” of sportswriters that covers the WHL, penned a beautiful tribute piece talking about the Humboldt Broncos playing a hockey game in the afterlife.
    Saskatoon Blades play-by-play voice Les Lazaruk has express interest in calling a Humboldt Broncos game for free next season, and his idea is gaining support from a tonne of other broadcasters.
    Longer form positive and reflective style articles have been written by Sports Illustrated and Maclean’s.
    The ways to honour, raise funds and rally around the Humboldt Broncos keeps going and going. It is great to see, because the challenges everyone will face going forward will only be met and overcome over the longer term.
    In recent days, a number of funerals were held for those that died in the Humboldt bus accident providing another chance for people to rally together to support each other.
A Humboldt Broncos memorial at city hall in Saskatoon.
    For the survivors, a new normal will really set in, when the cameras and the attention does subside. That will be the time when they will need continued support to be enabled to show the uplifting spirit displayed by defenceman Ryan Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the waist down and vows to play for Canada’s Men’s Paralympic Sledge Hockey team.
    During a dark time, words can’t describe how uplifting it has been to see everyone rally around the Humboldt Broncos. The hashtag phrases #BroncosStrong and #HumboldtStrong are now ingrained in our vocabulary.
This sign in Moose Jaw says it all. 
    At tragic moments like these, humanity shows in new and good ways how special it can be.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to Drinnan’s “The boys grab some sticks and win a game” article can be found right here.
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