This past weekend, the hockey community and Canada took a major blow, experiencing a tragedy that left all Canadians heartbroken and devastated. The Humboldt Broncos were on the way to game 5 of their semi-final playoff match-up in Nipawin, before fatally colliding with a tractor trailer. An accident that has left 15 men dead and 14 injured.
The small community of Humboldt Saskatchewan, population of 6,000 people, turned into a community of +36 million people this weekend. This unfathomable accident has united an entire country with beautiful tributes from people and world leaders across the world.
Personally, I have never experienced a tragedy that hit so close to home for me. A team of brothers traveling across western Canada in some of the most frigid conditions, hair dyed bleach blonde, preparing for battle in the semi-finals of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs, that had a fatal outcome no one ever could have prepared for or expected. This accident has left myself speechless and heartbroken, but I wanted to pay homage in anyway I possibly could just like the millions of people who already have.
I genuinely feel like it would be impossible for myself to recover from such a tragedy if I was personally connected. But I'm not from Saskatchewan, and I am definitely not prairie tough like these people. Western Canada (Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan) is the home of these victims. Thankfully, these people posses a type of grit that is unmatched to anyone else. This has been a theory of mine forever and yesterday at the Humboldt Bronco's vigil, these people proved they are the toughest, strongest, most courageous people on this planet. These people are prairie strong. They're the type of people who will overcome this tragedy united and come back even stronger.
To further prove this, Saskatchewan is home to the toughest NHL players to ever hit the ice (i.e Wade Belak (RIP), Derek Boogaard (RIP), Gordie Howe (RIP) Wendel Clark etc.). People in Saskatchewan are skating before they're walking and that's only because of the polar temperatures. Even the toughest man in America, Brock Lesnar, has been adopted by the province and resides there since the mid 2000's because of his praise and love for the tight-knit, hard-nosed, blue-collard community. And because there is no scarier feeling for his opponents than taking on a prairie boy in the ring. Tragedy and adversity is no stranger to this hockey province and they will always find a way to conquer it.
The resiliency and support displayed by Canada and the prairies has been remarkable. The go fund me page for the Bronco's community is currently at 4.7 m with all proceeds going to affected families.
The amount of support and tributes posted online is truly incredible and I have been very hard-pressed to find one that won't break me down. Most NHL teams paid tribute on the weekend, including an amazing tribute from the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks game. Both teams wore "BRONCOS" on the name plates on the back of their jerseys, as well as donating all 50/50 proceeds to the families which totaled $272, 795.
Even professional teams outside of the NHL paid their respects, such as the Texas Rangers of the MLB.
As I said before, these people are prairie tough, and they put their courage and strength on full display last night at the Vigil and at the Saskatchewan Rush game of the NLL.
But the most touching tribute came last night, with Canadians across the nation leaving their CCMs, Bauers, and Eastons on the porch for the boys.
I know that the 15 Broncos, wherever they may be, collected every single one of these sticks last night, threw them in the middle of a frozen lake and split up into two teams, Team Boogaard VS Team Belak, and had one of the grittiest games of shinny ever played, while the rest of us remain #HumboldtStrong.