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Canadian Junior Hockey Team Loses 15 Players in Tragic Bus Crash

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In 2017, the Humboldt Broncos finished fifth overall in Canada’s Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League standings but were swept by the Nipawin Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs. This year, the Broncos had advanced to the SJHL semi-finals and were heading into much-anticipated game five against the Hawks again. The puck would never be dropped, though.

Players, coaches and staff, 29 in total, piled onto a bus to travel to Nipawin, anticipating a chance at redemption. Instead, a semi-truck slammed into the side of their bus, killing 15 and injuring 14.  Hockey took backseat as one of the worst sports tragedies of recent memory occurred.

I am freaking out. I am so sad for all of the teammates and I am losing my mind”

“An entire country is in shock and mourning,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. “This is every parent’s worst nightmare. No one should ever have to see their child leave to play the sport they love and never come back.”

Trudeau graciously paid his respects, especially to the families of those who passed, among them Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber. Names of the other 12 killed have not been confirmed. Michelle Straschnitzki said her 18-year old son Ryan was transported to a hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“We talked to him, but he said he couldn’t feel his lower extremities so I don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “I am freaking out. I am so sad for all of the teammates and I am losing my mind.”

Police reports state that many first responders were fans of the Broncos competition—the Nipawin Hawks. The Hawks led the Broncos 3-1 going into game five of the semi-final round in League Championships.

“Hockey was what brought us all together and we had two communities that were rivals in the rink. To find out that it was their first responders that aided our boys just warms your heart,” Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said.

Tributes and condolences have been poured out to the team by many. On Saturday night’s NHL match between the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks, players wore jerseys with the same team name, “Broncos,” printed on their back as their nameplates.

“Tonight, we’re all Broncos,” the NHL tweeted while sharing a video of the teams’ touching pre-game tribute.

The Broncos have always been known as being a close-knit team. All hailing from the small city of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, which has a population of about 6,000, the teammates saw each other as brothers. Many locals gathered at their home town arena upon hearing the news. Mayor Muench even made an appearance, sporting a green and yellow Broncos team jersey, and comforted his citizens on Saturday morning as they came to the Elger Petersen Arena.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s been tough on everybody,” Muench said. “We’re a small community; some of those kids have been on the team for a number of years. A lot grew up in the community and everybody knows each other.”

The entire Canadian hockey world, as well as its American brothers, will continue to mourn for the many young lives lost. As the 14 injured begin the physical healing process, an entire nation will begin to heal emotionally.

“This is I would think one of the darkest days in the history of Saskatchewan, especially because hockey is so ingrained in how we grow up here,” a local coach said.

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Canadian Junior Hockey Team Loses 15 Players in Tragic Bus Crash