Tragedy hits Junior League’s Humboldt Broncos, hockey community mourns unexpected loss

The Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League were on a team bus on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin, Saskatchewan on the night of Friday April 6. Just shy of 30 passengers boarded the bus. 

At a highway intersection, the bus collided with a tractor-trailer, killing 15 of the passengers. Among them were the bus driver, the head coach, the assistant coach, the team announcer and a 16-year-old player. 

Despite hockey being a game that spans many countries across the globe, the community is exceptionally tight-knit. Ask any hockey player and they will tell you that although they may speak different languages and come from all parts of the world, they’re really not all that different. That is why this tragedy has hit so close to home for so many hockey communities and beyond. 

While most of the players on the team were from different parts of Canada and the United States, they were put up in family homes in Humboldt in a practice known as “billeting.” Players move in with families and become part of the community. It is a huge component of junior hockey and now has many Humboldt families feeling as if they lost sons. 

The devastation has completely rocked the small community of Humboldt as portrayed by Broncos Vice President Randolph MacLean. 

“We’re devastated,” MacLean said, according to USA Today. “At the center of this, we have 15 souls who’ll never go home again. We have 29 lives that will never be the same.” 

The hockey communities at home and abroad have both taken initiative to pay their respects to the team and help the families of the victims. A GoFundMe account was made in honor of the victims and has currently raised about $9 million for the families. That number continues to rise. 

The night after the tragedy, fans and players stopped for a moment of silence in a National Hockey League game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks. The players stood at the center circle in an alternating pattern to represent that hockey is surely a community. Instead of displaying the players’ own names, every players’ name plate was stitched with the word “Broncos.” 

Additionally, in an act of solidarity, hockey families are leaving their hockey sticks outside their front doors touching together at their butt ends, according to CNN. It seems to be the hockey community’s version of putting the flag at half-mast. 

This tragedy has touched more than just those associated with hockey. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman showed his support for the cause during his start against the Texas Rangers. 

“HUMBOLDT BRONCOS!” was written in white on the right side of Stroman’s hat. On the left side was an “SK” for Saskatchewan. He auctioned the hat off to the highest bidder and donated all of the money to the victims’ families. 

Amongst the wreckage of the accident, a broken copy of Slapshot was found, a favorite movie among hockey teams everywhere, according to Every hockey player, it seems, has watched that movie at least once while on a road trip to a tournament. This is in part why this tragedy has sent ripples across the hockey communities. 

For all the rivalries and physicality that hockey brings, there are thousands of teams across the world that are just like the Humboldt Broncos. From the lowest levels of the game to the NHL, every hockey player has memories of road trips like the one taken by the Broncos, which is what makes it such a trying time. As long as hockey players continue these traditions, the Broncos will never be forgotten.