Prince Rupert’s hockey community took some time over the weekend to reflect on the tragic accident that claimed the lives of 15 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team last week.
At a team banquet on Saturday evening, the city’s bantam rep Seawolves held a moment of silence and a brief prayer in honour of the Broncos after a bus carrying the Saskatchewan team collided with a semi-truck on April 6 along Highway 35.
“It definitely hit home,” said Seawolves head coach Bruce Watkinson. “That could have been any group of kids travelling.”
The Broncos had been travelling to Game 5 of a semi-final playoff series against the Nipawin Hawks when the accident occurred. Those killed in the accident included head coach Darcy Haugan, former Surrey Eagle Jaxon Joseph, bus driver Glen Doerksen, sports reporter Tyler Bieber, and 11 players. Adam Herold, 16, was the youngest victim. Police say that another 14 people on the bus were injured.
The news of the accident resonated with players, parents and coaches in Prince Rupert because the city’s teams spend a significant amount of time on the road during the season travelling to games and tournaments. During the winter, driving along Highway 16 can be especially dangerous as highwinds, ice and avalanche zones can create hazardous road conditions.
The Seawolves had recently returned from Kitimat where they won the Tier 4 Provincial Championship tournament. Despite the dinner being an occasion to celebrate, Watkinson said the accident reminded them that anything can happen at anytime.
“We always think of riding the bus and road trips as part of the minor hockey experience,” he said. “You have kids riding in the front and parents in the back.
“It’s a reminder that there can be risk for sure.”
Roger Atchison, head coach for the Prince Rupert Rampage, said there were no words to describe the tragedy. As someone who spends a lot of time on the road with his team, Atchison said danger on the road is something everyone acknowledges.
“It’s just one of those things that you just fear would never happen to you or anyone,” he said. “It’s always there. You just hope the roads are good, and the drivers are good and the buses are good and you just kinda go.”
A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for the families of the victims. So far, it has raised more than $6 million.