Just over $6,000 was raised in only two and a half hours for the Humboldt Broncos.
The Port McNeill IGA teamed up with the Port McNeill Minor Hockey Association (PMMHA) on April 12 to host a barbecue fundraiser for the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.
On April 6, on route to a SJHL semi-final game, the Broncos’ team bus collided with a semi-truck on Highway 35 near Armley. The local RCMP reported 16 fatalities as a result of the accident, and the game was cancelled. The victims included 10 players, two coaches, a statistician, a broadcaster, the bus driver, and an athletic therapist. The remaining passengers, 13 players, received injuries, most of them serious.
PMMHA President Murray Estlin said the fundraiser was “An IGA barbecue — it was their idea, and Port McNeill Minor Hockey is helping out with it. IGA has always been a big supporter of Port McNeill Minor Hockey so we’re happy to be here.”
Estlin added the Broncos’ bus accident “Is a cause that is near and dear to our hearts, we can all relate to the tragedy in Saskatchewan. We have people here today who either have kids playing hockey now, or had kids playing hockey in the past — everyone can relate to it and it really strikes a chord with everybody.”
All the proceeds from the fundraiser will be going directly to the Humboldt Broncos.
Tri-Port Midget Wild Coach Mike Bell spoke about how the accident affected him personally at the Wild’s year-end awards ceremony. “I have a son that plays college hockey and travels in the eastern United States,” Bell stated, “and this has hit home for us quite hard — as you know, hockey families on the North Island travel constantly, not just for games but for practices as well.”
Bell added the North Island has players who travel from Alert Bay, Port McNeill, Woss, Port Alice, and Port Hardy, “And we put in a lot of miles each month, every fall, winter, and spring, as do our counterparts the North Island Eagles and all the house teams. We understand the commitment, sacrifice, and the determination we all have to give to play at the level we want to compete at and the lengths we go to in pursuit of our game.”
Bell then asked for a moment of silence to remember the Broncos.
North Island Eagles Coach Ryan Handley stated that whenever these types of tragedies happen, “It hits everyone extremely hard. To try and even fathom what the town, the families and friends are going through is impossible, all you can do is offer support in any way possible. For me personally, this has hit myself and my family very hard — I think of all the time I’ve spent on the road as a coach and as a father, and how my own family now has two boys driving up and down the island, those hours are increasing two fold.”
Handley noted after the past four years of being involved with the North Island Eagles rep hockey association, “Those hours must be pushing a thousand. You hug your family everytime you head out on the road and hug them even tighter when you return — it is simply an emotional time for everyone… My family sends its most heartfelt condolences to all the friends and family who have lost loved ones in this horrific accident, and for me personally, I hold my family tighter and will always love and appreciate my friends even more.”