Rabinowitz: Heartache for Humboldt

It has been just over a week since the tragic bus crash that killed sixteen members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey organization on April 6. It’s been said that time heals all wounds, but the story doesn’t seem to get any easier to swallow.

Luckily, horrific stories like this are quite rare amongst the sports world, but that seems to make something like this just that much harder to comprehend.

The Broncos packed their buses on that Friday afternoon to head to Nipawin, Saskatchewan, where they would take on the Nipawin Hawks in game five of their playoff series in the pursuit of a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship.

For the Broncos, it was just another bus ride. Business as usual. With living the junior hockey lifestyle, the road has to become like a second home. The bus becomes your living room, bedroom, even kitchen. And the group of twenty-five to thirty other people on that bus, all living the same dream as you with the same goals in mind, become your family.

As someone who grew up playing the game of hockey, I know how easy it is to take those bus rides for granted. You get on the bus and expect to show up where you’re supposed to play. After the game, win or lose, you expect to show up back home.

For fourteen Humboldt Broncos, that trip home never happened. Two more Broncos would later join their deceased teammates in the days following the crash.

What makes this story so hard to accept, is that it wasn’t supposed to happen to these kids, and this team. Nothing says “living the dream” for a hockey player like playing junior hockey. I don’t think anybody would have thought it would have been possible for something as devastating as this to end the careers of so many young athletes just doing what they loved.

This incident really hit home for me. I know first hand just how deep the brotherhood runs in the sport of hockey. I never really realized it until now, but those bus trips that so many hockey players take for granted hold some of the greatest memories.
Nothing beats that pregame excitement, and jittery feelings you have on the bus on the way to a big game. A win would correspond with a rowdy bus ride home that you never wanted to end. Even in a loss, there was something always very comforting about being surrounded by your teammates that felt the same disappointment as you.

If there is any silver lining at all to this tragedy, it’s comes in the form of the tremendous support from the hockey community and the rest of the world.

A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for the Humboldt community with a fundraising goal of 4 million dollars. At the time of posting, the fundraising total is closing in on 12 million dollars.

Although no amount of money will ever bring back the lost Broncos, nor will it fill the void the victims left behind, but one can only hope that the significance of the dollar amount shows those affected in Humboldt that they are loved, and that they are not alone.

Support for the Humboldt community has come in so many forms. World-renowned rapper, Drake, was seen wearing a Broncos jersey at a Toronto Raptors playoff game. Drake had the Raptors sign the jersey after the game, and sent it to the Broncos organization.
NHL teams have been spotted with stickers reading “Humboldt Strong” placed on their helmets, along with pre-game tributes to the Broncos before many NHL games. A “#SticksOutForHumboldt” initiative went viral, as professional hockey players, hockey families, and everyone in between placed hockey sticks outside their doors to honor the deceased players.

The hockey world can only hope that, in time, the families of those affected and the Humboldt community can find peace. The strength of the community, and the worldwide support for Humboldt is beautifully overwhelming. This is a perfect example of the power of love and compassion, and what makes sports so amazing.

On behalf of the Impact Sports family, we send our thoughts and prayers to all of those who are hurting, and to the Humboldt community. You will remain in our hearts forever, as we all stand Humboldt Strong.

And boys, wherever you all are – keep living the dream. I know there’s a fresh sheet of ice somewhere out there for you.