Heavy hearts and hockey jerseys

The impact of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is being felt across Canada. Hockey parents in this province say the tragedy has affected every hockey family in the country.

By Victoria Plowman

It was early Saturday morning when Krista Welsh of Whitbourne heard the news of the horrific bus crash that has claimed 16 lives in Saskatchewan.

Her nine-year-old son Nolan was getting ready for a hockey tournament.

“My stomach just dropped,” Welsh told Kicker. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. It’s unimaginable.”

On April 6, a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team collided with a transport truck, just 200 kilometres from Saskatoon on Highway 35. Of the 29 people on board, 16 people had lost their lives as of Wednesday, April 11.

Welsh says that the accident has impacted every hockey family across the country.

“There’s a kinship that links us all together with memories of times together,” Welsh said of the sport. “There’s such a unity among players and their families, so when you hear of this tragedy it hits you right to the core.”

“There are many early mornings when we all board our vehicles and don’t hesitate to drive across the island in over the highway in all kinds of weather for the team to play a game they absolutely love,” she said.

“It really puts things into perspective.”

On Thursday, people across Canada showed their support for the Humboldt Broncos by wearing hockey jerseys. On social media, the hashtags #JerseyForHumboldt and #JerseyDay are being used to describe the spontaneous nationwide day of mourning and support.

“In this household, we are all participating in Jersey Day,” Welsh said. “It’s our way for us to honour this team and show support to them and their families. Our hearts go out to them.”


Nine-year-old Nolan Welsh’s hockey jersey. His mom, Krista, says the impact of the Broncos crash can be felt all over the country. Submitted by Krista Welsh

Newfoundland and Labrador’s hockey association, Hockey NL, requested on Tuesday that all its associates host a vigil on Thursday night at arenas across the island. Many people are are also placing hockey sticks and candles on their doorsteps to honour the Humboldt Broncos.

Jack Lee, president of Hockey NL, says that the Broncos crash hit extremely close to home for him, with two sons who play hockey and travel via bus often for tournaments.

“I think it strikes everybody, not just the hockey world,” Lee said. “It’s the sporting world in general because any sport that you play, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador, you have to travel wherever you go.

“Most of the kids on that bus, and all the buses that travel, they’re probably sleeping, resting,” he said. “They think they’re in a safe place, which they should be, but unfortunately accidents do happen and it’s tragic.”

Lee says everyone has felt the impact of the horrible tragedy.

“Go around today and look into a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks, any place really, most people are wearing jerseys,” he said. “I had one woman say to me today she wished I had a hockey stick I could give her to put up outside of her door, so you know, this strikes home to just about everybody.”

Welsh, a member of the Trinity-Placentia Minor Hockey Association, said the executive team quickly came together to plan the vigil when Hockey NL released its request.

“We plan to light a candle for each of the players and staff that lost their lives in the accident,” Welsh said. The vigil will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening at the Trinity-Placentia Arena in Whitbourne.

“By standing together at the vigil, we stand with hockey families across the province and across the country. With all the time we all spend traveling on our highways, this tragedy is not lost on us,” Welsh said.

“We pray that our kids will be safe in their travels, just as the Bronco moms did. You never know when something like this will happen… so now we pray for them — our hockey family.”


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