The excitement of a playoff hockey game in the city of Humboldt Friday quickly turned into a nightmare that has put the city of 6000 into the national and international spotlight.
The SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos were en route to Nipawin to play Game 5 of an SJHL semi-final against the Hawks when their bus was t-boned at an intersection on Highway 35 about 30 kilometers north of Tisdale by a semi-trailer. In the end, 14 people on the bus were killed with another 14 injured—three critically.
The news has devastated the community —-one that has a deep love affair with the team that has brought so much pride to the city.
Broncos team president Kevin Garinger says it has been a tough night.
“Our organization will never be the same.” Garinger said. “This is about our families, our organization and our families. We are just trying to support the families who are affected. That is our main focus right now.”
Support is pouring in.
A GoFundMe page was set up Friday night. At 7:30 Sunday morning, over $3 million had been raised, with all the proceeds going to families who will be in need when it comes to medical expenses and other things.
Many people in Humboldt went to the team’s home, the Elgar Peterson Arena, and the attached Uniplex to look for answers and provide any help they could.
Humboldt mayor Rob Muench says it was a long night.
“People just gravitated to the rink where crisis support people were in place.” Muench said Friday night. “When we got here, some were sitting in the arena, looking out at the empty ice which was hard to see as they were trying to comprehend exactly what had happened.”
Muench is also extending his gratitude to the first responders who showed up at the crash site to do what they had to do in what were obviously very trying conditions.
Meanwhile in Nipawin, the community came together to support the many Broncos fans that had travelled to Nipawin for the game and heard the devastating news while there. The town opened up its Apostolic Church for people to gather with many offering what help they could. It was something that left the church’s pastor Jordan Gatsby feeling very proud of his town.
“Our community was amazing.” Gatsby said. “They came out en masse to offer whatever help they could even if it was just to sit with someone. The rivalry between the two clubs is a strong one, but everything was put aside.”
Meanwhile, updates both good and bad came from social media. The father of one player put out a tweet saying his son and two of his teammates were recovering in a Saskatoon hospital.
Derek Grayson and Nick bonding and healing in hospital pic.twitter.com/DzesIoT27B
— R J patter (@rjpatter) April 7, 2018
While that was good, the sister of Humboldt Head Coach and General Manager Darcy Haugen confirmed her brother had been one of those killed.
My brother didn’t make it…
— invisigirlonfire (@DebbieJayneC) April 7, 2018
The crash has many in the hockey world sending messages of support as well.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 7, 2018
We are devastated at the tragic news from the Humboldt Broncos today. Condolences and prayers from the Blades organization to the community of Humboldt, the players, staff, volunteers, and their families.
— Saskatoon Blades (@BladesHockey) April 7, 2018
We are shocked and saddened over the tragic news of the accident involving the Humboldt Broncos.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) April 7, 2018
RCMP did not have much to say in an update on Saturday morning. It is believed they will have more to say before the day is over.
A vigil is planned in Humboldt Sunday night at 7 PM at the Uniplex.