BERWICK - Wayne Hamilton’s mind was racing a mile a minute in the moments after he heard of the deadly bus crash involving Saskatchewan’s Jr. A Humboldt Broncos.
Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured after the team’s bus collided with a transport truck near Tisdale, Sask. while en route to a playoff game April 6.
“The first thing that I felt when I heard the news, was that I knew those players. I didn’t know them personally, but I’ve been on many busses going to a playoff game. I know what they were thinking. I know what they were doing. I know what they were talking about - and I got an immediate knot in my stomach,” said Hamilton, a board member for the Valley Wildcats organization.
“I’ve been involved with Jr. A hockey for almost 20 years.”
Hamilton wanted to do something – anything – to send a message of solidarity to those deeply impacted by the tragedy. He opted to organize a candlelight vigil that will be hosted at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick April 15 at 3 p.m.
“It really hit close to home,” he said.
“I’m not going to heal anybody but I certainly would like to see people go there so that they know they’re not hurting alone.”
The vigil will give the general public an opportunity to reflect, pay their respects and offer a show of support. The event is not a fundraiser, but any donations collected will be forwarded to the Humboldt Broncos.
The ceremony will include a special address to first responders, Hamilton said.
“It had to be atrocious what they came across.”
Like Hamilton, Valley Wildcats general manager Nick Greenough has spent a lot of time reflecting on the countless hours he’s logged on a bus as both a former high-level hockey player and coach.
“On the bus is where a lot of stories are told, friendships are made. You’re there after a win when emotions are high. You’re together after a loss when emotions are at their lowest point, and they spend hundreds of hours each year up and down the road on the bus,” said Greenough.
“I’ve talked to their coach, Darcy (Haugan), numerous times over the years and there’s a player on our team, Donavon Beatty, that knew a couple of players from being a Saskatchewan kid.”
The crash claimed the lives of ten players, Haugan, an assistant coach, the bus driver, a play-by-play broadcaster, a volunteer statistician and the team’s athletic therapist.
“I was overwhelmed when this happened because these guys were going to play a playoff game and expecting to come back home to Humboldt that night - and this happened,” said Greenough.
“You never want to hear something like this.”
Greenough hopes to see a good showing at the arena for the vigil honouring the Humboldt Broncos.
“This could be any team and the hockey world is a close-knit family,” he said.
“We just wanted to show our support and do what we can out here and let everyone out west know we’re thinking of them.”
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