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Hockey community grieves after 15 killed in bus crash involving Canadian junior hockey team

Hockey community grieves after 15 killed in bus crash involving Canadian junior hockey team
Posted at 12:02 PM, Apr 08, 2018

A small town in Canada's Saskatchewan province is in mourning Saturday after 15 people died when a bus carrying a junior hockey team collided with a tractor-trailer. At least 14 are being treated for injuries.

"This is a dark moment for our city, our community, our province," Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said Saturday afternoon at a news conference. "There is no playbook on what to do in cases like this.

The crash occurred around 5 p.m. Friday north of Tisdale, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as the team was headed for the town of Nipawin for a playoff game. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said the tractor-trailer, traveling west on Highway 335, collided with the bus which was traveling north on Highway 35.

Three of the injured are in critical condition, according to the RCMP. Authorities have yet to identify the victims. Twenty-nine people were on the bus.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured in the collision, Zablocki said. He was initially detained but was later released, and he is not currently the subject of a criminal investigation.

"Our investigators will be looking at all aspects of this accident to determine what took place," Zablocki said. "It's too early to comment on the cause of the collision."

The Humboldt team was scheduled to play the Nipawin Hawks in the fifth game of a best-of-seven semifinal playoff series Friday. The teams played a lengthy game Wednesday that Nipawin won 6-5 in three overtimes in Humboldt, leaving Nipawin with a 3-1 series lead.

Pain felt far and wide

The tragedy was felt across Canada, where hockey is the dominant sport and many young players take long bus rides to tournaments.

Expressions of support poured in, much of them focused on a Twitter photo that showed three injured players grasping each other's hands while lying in hospital beds.

Humboldt, a town of about 6,000, has a long tradition of fielding teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

The Broncos, like other teams in the league, attract players from different parts of Canada who stay with host families during the hockey season, the team's website said. According to an online team roster, players range in age from 16 to 21 and many are from Saskatchewan, with two from Humboldt. Others hail from the province of Alberta.

"Our Broncos family is in shock as we try to come to grips with our incredible loss," Kevin Garinger, the team's president, said in a statement.

Friday's crash brought back memories of another highway accident that claimed the lives of hockey players in Saskatchewan. In 1986, four members of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League died in a crash in the western part of the province, CNN partner CBC reported.

NHL, Trudeau offer condolences

Members of the National Hockey League expressed sadness over the news.

"We sent condolence, comfort and strength to all affected by the devastating crash involving the Humboldt Broncos' team bus," the National Hockey League said on Twitter.

Cam Talbot, a goalie for the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL, tweeted: "After all the hours spent on a bus with the boys over the years this one really hits home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities affected by this horrible tragedy. #PrayersForHumboldt"

"I can't imagine being the parent or the wife or the kids at home going through something like this," Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said at a press conference. "It hurts."

On Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences on Twitter.

"I cannot imagine what these parents are going through, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, in the Humboldt community and beyond," Trudeau tweeted.

US President Donald Trump also expressed sympathy for the victims' families on Twitter.

Donations pour in

The hockey community and others rallied around the victims and their families after news of the crash, offering financial assistance.

By Sunday morning, a GoFundMe page for the players and their families had raised more than $3.2 million, the result of nearly 50,000 donations.

Many of those donations purportedly came from the hockey community. NHL teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins gave money, as did hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer Hockey, which shared a link to the GoFundMe on its Twitter account.

Muench said it will take a long time for Humboldt to recover.

"We're a small town and we're overwhelmed with the outpouring of condolences we've received," he said. "We're asking for everyone's support and consideration in the coming days and weeks and months and years it will take us to get through this."​