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Monday, April 9, 2018

THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE: #HUMBOLDTSTRONG


SASKATCHEWAN - The first of many text messages came in at 6:17 pm Friday evening, saying that the Humboldt Broncos' bus had been in an accident on the way to a playoff game in Nipawin.

I was just wrapping up my SportsCage radio talk show on 620 CKRM for the week and the thought crossed my mind how much I hate when sports crosses over into news, especially when I'm live on air. Sportscasters are supposed to talk about happy things, not unhappy things. But for some reason a quiver in my gut told me this was no case of a bus simply slipping off into the ditch or getting stuck. This was bad.

For the sake of keeping my listeners updated across the province, I shot a quick note to a friend in Humboldt whom I knew would have the latest details, but wouldn't be on that bus.

"It's our worst nightmare," he responded. And then moments later he texted something else:

"Guys are dead Roddy."

In 2018 bad news travels fast. Waves upon waves of text messages started coming in from anxious parents, aunts and uncles, and friends. How do you tell someone that you know there are fatalities, but don't know the names?

You don't. But sitting tight and waiting for the news from authorities - either good or bad - clearly was the longest hours of these peoples' lives. And then, the worst.

You've all heard that hockey is a tight-knit community. Saskatchewan is a tight-knit community. So throw them both together and you've got a tragedy that seemingly has affected everyone in this province of a million souls.

Colossal devastation.

Finding out more and more details over the weekend only made you feel worse. It was a disaster beyond our worst nightmare. As officials said during Saturday's news conference at the Uniplex, "First Responders came upon things they'll never be able to forget."

I didn't know those Humboldt Broncos players personally, but I knew them.

Junior hockey players are all the same and they're my favourite people on the planet. Positive, happy, and full of life.

Until they're not. And what some of those players went through Friday night is unspeakable. That was the gut-punch.

So upset on Saturday morning, I reached out to a Team Chaplain from another SJHL team looking for guidance. However he apologized and said he himself was still very distraught, counting the deceased Broncos Head Coach/GM Darcy Haugan as a close, long-time friend.

My eyes still hurt from crying so much.

What the hell is there to be grateful for? We should "thank our lucky stars" for what? Being grateful today seems selfish while families are grieving the loss of their sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, boyfriends and friends. They are NEVER coming home again.

There's a daughter, neighbour and friend battling for her life right now in hospital too, and her name is Dayna Brons. She's the Humboldt Broncos' therapist/trainer, and needs to be included in your prayers.

What are the odds of two vehicles of that size, travelling at that rate of speed, colliding at that split second in conditions that are clear as a bell? It almost seems pre-determined by some twisted divine intervention, but then you're ashamed for even thinking as much.

When I arose Saturday morning, it seemed symbolic that the bright sun had indeed come up and it was confirmation that the world isn't going to stop turning. It just stopped for these 15 tragic souls.

What about them? Where's their guardian angel?

WHY?

Somehow the Broncos, the SJHL, the SHA and Hockey Canada will ensure to find a way for these young men not to have died in vain but that's months away. A shoulder patch like the Swift Current Broncos wear honouring The Four Broncos would cover the entire sleeve of Humboldt's jersey. There will have to be another way.

The death of Humboldt Broncos broadcaster Tyler Bieber is a dagger that keeps plunging in and out of the heart of the hockey broadcasting community. Everybody loved Tyler and his name will forever be the symbol of a young, aspiring play-by-play man who perished while following his dreams and doing what he loved.

Might I suggest the Tyler Bieber Memorial Award to be awarded annually to the SJHL Broadcaster who contributes the most to his community? Tyler coached high school sports in Humboldt and always helped out the Kelly Bates Football Camp. (Bates - the longtime CFL player and coach who hails from Humboldt - has already progressed to the anger stage with regards to Tyler's passing).

Throughout the weekend I've been speaking with others who could've been on that bus. Would've been on that bus. Should have been on that bus. At this point, they can't bring themselves to say anything at all.

Other hockey people are just phoning to talk, and perhaps provide a mild distraction. But the conversation always keeps coming back to the Broncos. "This is why I never sleep on the bus," said a legendary coach, and those words are now going to echo in my head for the rest of my bloody life.

Kudos to the men who spoke at Saturday's news conference: Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench, Broncos President Kevin Garinger, SJHL President Bill Chow and the RCMP's Curtis Zablocki. They addressed North America with a stiff upper lip, but they had no choice. They are leaders and people are looking for leadership at this time.

I’m so proud of how they’ve represented our province.

However Bill Chow can be forgiven for briefly losing his composure. When he took to the podium on Saturday, I thought he'd be leaning on his decades-long career as an officer with the Prince Albert City Police in which he's truly seen the worst the world has to offer. But he struggled to speak, and that's because he's the steward of this league. Right now the SJHL is going through the worst imaginable tragedy in its 50 years.

Oh, and that's the ironic thing. I've been dealing with Bill Chow and SJHL Marketing Director Logan Fraser on a weekly basis for the last year working on an expansive project to commemorate the SJHL's Golden Anniversary in 2018. It's taken months to put together and involves dozens of people. The photo atop this column was taken specifically for the venture. Now, I'm guessing, it's going to have to be shelved. Who knows? That's not important now.

What's important - from a hockey standpoint - is the remainder of the SJHL Playoffs which will assuredly be played.

Not surprisingly Bill Chow said on Saturday afternoon that no plans have been made yet and that's understandable because the tragedy was less than 24 hours old at the time. But hockey people seem to universally agree that "the show must go on" and the Estevan Bruins are waiting in the league final for the first time in 20-some years.

Darcy Haugan would have wanted it that way. And by the way, Haugan was an excellent ambassador for a franchise that's always been synonymous with success and class.

For today however, it's time to bring our focus back to the "now". What can be done to support each other and somehow ease the suffering? There is so much unimaginable pain at the moment.

It was mentioned during Saturday's news conference that "the circumstances of this tragedy are unprecedented."

Great. Why does this always seem to be us? Why does it always have to happen to us? What is it about Saskatchewan?

There are still so many questions. The only clear answer I have is this:

We will heal - together - one day at a time.

RP

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rod,

You have written many great articles over the years, but this may have been your best and toughest. I still can't believe this tragedy happened. To the families who have lost loved ones, my family will be thinking of you for many days, months and years to come. To the families who have survivors, we pray the recovery process is one of success. Our province will heal, will help out in any way possible and will hopefully always remember how sometimes sports can be cruel because after all, hockey and any other sport is a game, life is not.

Aaron Anderson

Brennan Turner said...

Rod,
Thanks for sharing. Not an easy time and to be able to share some words of how you're feeling is valuable. Having drive that highway a lot, be it while playing in the SJHL, hauling grain from the family farm in Foam Lake, or starting my company.

I had to put some pen to paper as well. I think it's part of the process and I wanted to share my interpretation of "that bus".

https://farmlead.com/blog/insights/hockey-team-bus-humboldt-sjhl-love/

Jim Vancha said...

Great Article. Any of us or All of us, that have played sports could have been on the bus. That's why its hits so close to home for many of us. Let's hope the tears we shed today will help send comfort to the family's and friends of the Humboldt Bronco organization.

Jim Vancha

Anonymous said...

I woke up Saturday morning and my husband was sitting at the kitchen table, quietly. I knew by the look on his face that something terrible had happened. And, then he told me. My response? "Not another Broncos team!"

I was a young woman living in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, in 1986 when the Swift Current Broncos bus hit an icy patch and slid off the highway. I knew two of the young men killed. My brother used to play hockey with one of them. All of the memories from 1986 came back.

There are no words at a time like this.

IMAGIRL

Anonymous said...

It's the worst possible situation that has no words and Don Cherry captured it perfectly. A boy at the gym I attend I guess got called up for Midget AAA games and new the captain. All I could say was speak to parents as soon as possible and seek counselling. There is first aid and there is psychological first aid and the red cross society has and can provide that avenue. I don't speak for them though.

After my temper subsided I responded to how could this happen. Without getting worked up I said how do you ask? I won't make a comment on where I suspect that Truck Driver is from. Yet clear weather conditions and they are very tight lipped on that driver who was let go and not held. That'll change after they thoroughly check that truck drivers cell phone at the time of impact and that's going to tell the story right there.

I have been up and down those Saskatchewan Highways my entire life. I moved into the city and on a lower scale sit on a city bus to work and back, and the amount of distracted drivers makes me wretch.

Get off your phones when you're driving. Quit flipping stations when you're driving and pay attention to the road. If you are also the person who has the right away then scan those approaches because you can't trust the person who has to yield to do the right thing.

Duane Berry

Anonymous said...

I agree Rob, very well written! It has been 40 plus years since I road the bus as a player, and 16 years since I road it as a parent. I have however spent most of the last 40 years very heavily involved in the transportation industry. That said the feeling in my gut is I don’t think, ever going to go away. Mechanical failure, Driver error, Driver inexperience, or fatigue? I pray the right people are involved in getting to the bottom of what happened here, and correct it from ever happening again!

Anonymous said...

Rod
We lost our 33 year old son on.Dec 21 2016 in a tragic farm accident and I know there are NO words to describe the pain that each family will.go through. You are correct when you mention that time heals, lots of time.
What we found was that we had huge support right after The accident, but that the support stopped once we held our sons celebration. People have a tendency to go back to their lives. We then had each other and our family, but each of us were grieving in our own way.
Please continue to be with all these families long after the accident. No words will be needed, just being there will be enough. Holding them up and just showing you care.
The road of grief is long and dark and by being there it offers hope of light.

william weppler said...

Thx Rod...well done.
Such a terrible tragedy. I didn't know anyone on the Broncos personally but I love Junior hockey and my thoughts are with all the Families and friends affected. 🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒🏒

Darryl Skender said...

Very well said Rod. I did the play by play for the Broncos for 5 years and rode that bus hundreds of times. I knew one of the players on the Swift Current bus on that tragic day back in the 80's as well. You're right that hockey is a tight knit community. I have been in tears so many times these past few days. I hope the investigation wraps up sooner than later to help these poor families come to grips sooner. I am devastated... I can't imagine what the families must be going through. Unfortunately the SJHL must continue their playoffs despite what's happened. After all, it's this game we call hockey that has brought us all together in the first place. Let's please never forget these guys.
Darryl Skender

Scott Thompson said...

You nailed it Rod, thank you. I did not know anyone on that bus, but as an member of the emergency services I hope I never have to experience a situation that tragic. Just so terribly sad today.

Willie said...

Duane Berry.... This is all about Sorrow not Blame as of yet. Perhaps the driver was driving into the sun. Let the RCMP do the investigation not you, and put your thoughts into Prayers not Blame as you already have. May They All Rest In Peace.

@mrt_man said...

I KEEP READING ARTICLES AND LOOKING FOR PICTURES AND INFO... NO MATTER HOW MUCH I READ IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.

THE ODDS AGAINST SUCH AN INCIDENT WOULD BE PRETTY STAGGERING... IF YOU RAN THAT STOP SIGN 100 TIMES... HOW MANY TIMES WOULD HIT ANYBODY AT ALL?... LET ALONE A BUS FULL OF KIDS. IT WOULD SEEM LIKE HITTING A CROSSING VEHICLE LIKE THAT WOULD BE TOUGH TO DO ON PURPOSE. A FAIRLY MINOR CHANGE IN SPEED FROM EITHER VEHICLE... PHONE? SLEEP? MOVIE? BOOK? BOOZE? I GUESS IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER. PRETTY MUCH THE WORST CASE SCENARIO... BARRING BACK FLIPPING A BUS OFF THE GRAND CANYON OR SOMETHING.

I WAS TERRIBLE AT HOCKEY, SO DIDN;T STICK WITH IT LONG ENOUGH TO BE TRAVELLING BY BUS... EVEN STILL I FOUND MYSELF THINKING BACK TO MEMORIES FROM TOURNAMENTS. I'LL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SMELL CREATED WHEN OUR TEAM WAS PLAYING AROUND IN THE SAUNA IN WEYBURN... POURING ROOTBEER ONTO THE HOT SAUNA ROCKS CREATED QUITE A UNIQUE AROMA.

WE ALL ARE ON THE ROAD IN SK. WE ALL HAVE HAD A CLOSE CALL HERE OR THERE. WE HAVE ALL PLAYED SPORTS. I WAS ON THE ROAD LISTENING TO THE CAGE WHEN I FIRST HEARD ABOUT THIS... AND THE NEWS JUST KEPT GETTING WORSE. I DUNNO WHY IT'S HITTING ME AS MUCH AS IT IS... I DON'T HAVE ANY DIRECT CONNECTIONS. PART OF ME WISHES THAT I HAD MORE PLANNED THIS WEEKEND AND LESS TIME TO KEEP READING ABOUT THIS.

MY HEART GOES OUT TO THE FAMILIES OF EVERYONE INVOLVED. LIKE MANY OUT THERE... IT FEELS LIKE I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING... ANYTHING IN THIS HELPLESS SITUATION.

WE KEEP TRYING TO FIND OUT DETAILS AND GET INFO TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF THIS THING... BUT EVEN WHEN WE DO FIND OUT MORE DETAILS ABOUT EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, I DON'T THINK THERE WILL REALLY BE ANYTHING THAT MAKES SENSE WHEN WE ASK WHY.

Marlene Lafrentz said...

Rod, you say it well! This incomprehensible tragedy has pulled our entire province together, and we must never forget those sweet souls who were called home way too soon. Continue prayers for their family and friends.
The sadness is overwhelming.

Marlene Lafrentz

Anonymous said...

Hey Roddy, this is the best article you have ever written, very heart warming and from deep inside your heart. Journalists seldom do this, you did. You are a true Sask citizen and I am proud to read your articles, especially this one. It made me cry. The story makes me cry.
When I woke Saturday, the first thing I thought of was what will happen to the championship series, how will it continue?? Then I thought, it shouldn't continue, I would nominate the Broncos as the league champions for 2018. Why not, what a tribute that would be. The rest of the teams, the players still in it could suck it up and I am sure would understand. If it was me, I would say Humboldt, here is the trophy, locate it proudly in your rink because the people of your city deserve it. Thoughts??

@WpgGoldenboy said...

Rod,

As a Manitoba football fan .... I really don't care for things you've said or written, but I am a huge Jr.A hockey observer and follower of the Portage Terriers of the MJHL. People love their NHL/AHL teams and leagues but for myself I really stop at the Jr.A level. Kids playing for fun/scholarships/and building their resumes for senior men's leagues.

I want to say I read your write up from top to bottom and for once I wish I could stick my hand out and say thank you. Touching, passionate and heart breaking all on one page.

Great job Rod and keep being there for the people of Saskatchewan and the Humboldt community.

#WeAreJrAHockeyFamily

Pat Belitski said...

Rod, Great writing. Our family does know one of the victims and his family very well. He was the Captain of The Regina Pat Canadians whom my son played with. As well as 7 years of spring hockey. And it hurts. It hurts so damn much that yes, we want to blame! We want to hit reset. But it doesn’t work that way. We can only dig deep and be there for those who are hurting personally.
I don’t know why it happens to us in Saskatchewan. All I can think of is we might be the most resilient people who can deal with this type of tragedy. We come together. While at it show the strength that others want to be part of the healing. We bring people together. Tonight at 7pm there will be a vigil in Humboldt but there will also be others across the province, including Montmartre where friends, family and teammates 0past and present will be holding a candlelight vigil for the Captain Adam Herold.
We will laugh we will cry and in the end we will help the Herolds in their time of need now and in the future because in hockey every player has a set or two of parents but every player also has a team of brothers and parents that consider them family. Tonight we will start the process of the slow healing.

MacBrost said...

IMO
The remaining teams in The SJHL playoffs should share the Saskatchewan championship
And receive a birth in the western finals in honour of The Humboldt Broncos organization.

Janet Craig said...

Very well written Rod. I loved the personal contact you had from Humboldt. I also asked myself many times how could this happen in broad daylight at a clear intersection? What are the chances of two vehicles meeting at this corner at the exact same time. It reminded me of the old e mail that circulated years ago about the difference 30 seconds can make in someone's life. Our prayers continue for the families. Lest we forget.
They shall not grow old.

MacBrost said...

IMO
The remaining teams in The SJHL playoffs should share the Saskatchewan championship
And receive a birth in the western finals in honour of The Humboldt Broncos organization.

Blondena said...

I too lost my son in a terrible accident on November 28th of 2009. I agree with your comment completely. We had a huge support after the accident and as you also commented, afterthe celebration of our son's life, people slipped away and back to their own lives. My prayer is that the families of those lost will have the support that they need for a long time. They say that times heals the wounds but the scabs healing those wounds still open up without any forwarning and we are left to deal with the memories once again. I will continue to say prayers for the families and friends left behind long after the memories start to fade.

mister winnipeg said...

I've been on my knees saying prayers for the victims and their friends and families. I've been thinking about everyone affected and hoping for the best. God bless you all.

Heidi Nicks-Tambasco said...

As an aside, RCMP Zablocki's son played AJHL up to 21, most recently with the Kodiaks last year. This tragedy truly has affected everyone in some way.

Anonymous said...

Like others, I did not know anyone on the bus but as time passes I have found out that friends of mine did and that brings the tragedy even closer to home. This accident has touched me deeply and so many tears have fallen with more to come, I am sure. They say that God never gives you more than you can handle. Apparently he thinks the families and this province are very tough people. He has given us all a lot to handle this weekend. I will continue to pray for the families who have lost their son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin. I will continue to pray for those who are battling injuries and pray that their recovery is speedy and complete. I will pray for the community of Humboldt and the province as we have all felt the pain of this loss.

Rod, I am sure you feel this deeply. You have been one of those on the bus heading to another game in another town. I have always worried about the Pats heading out in winter weather. I always thought about the Swift Current Broncos accident and hoped it would never happen again. But, it did!

I think we all need to know why this happened and how can we make sure that it doesn't happen again. But, that will come in time after the investigation can be done. For now, we need to continue to pray for the survivors and all the families, medical staff and first responders.

Anonymous said...

After seeing an overhead shot of the scene it is likely that the semi unit was in the intersection, and was struck in the middle of the lead trailer, of a B train, by the bus.
The left frame rail of the trailer is bent, there is no damage to the front of the semi tractor, also the semi is ahead of the bus. If the bus had been struck by the semi the vehicles would have been arranged differently.
But who hit who doesn't change the fact that 15 people are dead, and the whole province, even the country and definitely the hockey community is gutted by this tragedy.
It is not for us to say why, but it is up to us to support the grieving families and communities, now and into the future on their long road to recovery.
Brian Callfas

Anonymous said...

Great article Rod. I think of the Great Depression. Thousands of people were scarred for life. I still can't throw anything away because my parents lived through the 30's. This may be that big too.

The only joy I can find in this horrible tragedy is the amazing outpouring of love and support from around the world. Reading the replies to the "Patter tweet" is heartwarming.

Beth Anderson said...

You said it all, when you said "together". This sentiment stays with me. Thank you for this article. Written so soon after this tragic event. You too, are a Leader and it's appreciated.
#broncos #together
"together"
��������❤

Anonymous said...

What is with the rant about the cell phone? Do you know something nobody else does??

Garry said...

The above suggestion that the SJHL season should end is one I cannot agree with. The SJHL should keep moving forward with the play-offs at some reasonable point to allow the remaining team's players a true way to honour the Humboldt Bronco team they competed against through-out the season. To carry-on is the culture of sport and the way life has to be lived.

Perhaps there are ways forward that can be found about working through this horror by recalling the experience of the Marshall University Thundering Herd following the November 14, 1970 plane crash.

John Meissner said...

Anyone who has ever ridden a hockey bus is affected by this incredible tragedy. I've been on a great many buses over the past 25 years. Even came close to an accident a while back, which likely would have seriously injured me and cost a handful of others their lives. This is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions, that won't ever be forgotten. I admire the spirit of not only the hockey family across North America, but the people of Saskatchewan as well. This won't just pass, but it will be gotten through. Roddy, you have my number. Call anytime.

Dave Leaderhouse said...

Great job Rod. We share the same sentiment about junior hockey players and those associated with the game at that level. I had, in fact, just talked to Darcy Haugen last week for information on a story leading up to their semi-final with the Humboldt Broncos. When I was finished talking to him I remember thinking to myself, what an awesome guy. The last game this team played together was a triple overtime thriller and from what I have heard it was the most exciting game ever played in Humboldt. My heart is broken and like you hope that those affected by this tragedy can heal in time.

lizV said...

From a hockey mom , your article brought me to tears. So well said..and felt . Our team lost a player, his mother, his sister and cousin in a horrific crash on the way home from our last hockey game before christmas on dec 22, 2005. The loss becomes part of your soul May eveyone who has been impacted find peace and hope in the future and solace in the present from all the support being given to them.

Anonymous said...

That truck driver will live with this for the rest of their lives. You are speculating about the cause. Let the authorities determine the cause. May the families heal from this terrible tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that! ������Thoughts and prayers to all who have been impacted by this tragedy! ������ Excellent job, Rod!

Anonymous said...

Rod, this is the best written article that I have ever read on your blog ever. Excellent job Rod, I want to send thoughts to everyone that has been impacted by the terrible tragedy that happened on Friday, April 6, 2018. Humboldt Strong and Broncos Forever.

Jeni McLeod said...

Thank you. This is beautiful ����❤