'They'll be remembered tonight': Winnipeg Jets mourn Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims

All of the hockey world is in mourning after the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan Friday, Winnipeg Jets players and coaches say.

Winnipeg organizations, leaders react with sadness as 15 confirmed dead in crash involving hockey team's bus

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice said the hockey world is in mourning after a crash involving the Humboldt Broncos' bus in Saskatchewan killed 15 people Friday night. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

All of the hockey world is in mourning after the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan Friday, Winnipeg Jets players and coaches say.

"At all the rinks in Canada and the States, they'll be remembered tonight and certainly every day going forward," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Saturday.

Fifteen people died and 14 were injured after the Humboldt Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team's bus collided with a semi-trailer north of Tisdale, Sask., about 200 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

The bus was carrying 29 people, including members of the Broncos team and the driver.

The sole Manitoban on board, Matthieu Gomercic, survived the crash, a friend of his family has confirmed to CBC.

The tragedy will hang heavy over Saturday's game between the Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks, Maurice said.

"The game will not take centre stage. It won't. It will be played and that's it."

Winnipeg Jets coach Maurice offers his condolences to the Humboldt Broncos family 1:28

Jets player Adam Lowry said the crash hit close to home.

From 2009 to 2013, he played for the Swift Current Broncos, a Saskatchewan junior hockey team that saw four of its players die in a bus crash in 1986.

Decades later, he and other Swift Current players wore the numbers of the victims on their jerseys.

"This is something that's going to be with them for a long, long time but the whole hockey world is behind them," he said.

In small Prairie towns, where everyone knows everyone, tragedy like this is especially difficult, Lowry said.

"Everything is so interconnected there. It's crazy. It's a huge loss for that community."

The Winnipeg Jets will observe a moment of silence before Saturday's game in honour of the victims of the crash. Players will also replace their names with the word "Broncos" on the back of their jerseys.

Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods echoed Maurice's words, saying the hockey community is in a state of shock and mourning.

"Everyone certainly feels for the people directly impacted by this," he said. 

"It's tragic. We have players on that team that are from all over Western Canada.… I think it's very difficult to come to grips with it right now."

Woods said while Hockey Manitoba waits for details, they will offer whatever support and help they can.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister also sent his condolences Saturday.

"With heavy hearts, we extend our deepest condolences to the Humboldt Broncos, their families and the entire Humboldt community," he wrote on Twitter.

Think of the families: Kennedy

The news is devastating, said former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy — a former Swift Current Broncos player who was one of the survivors of the 1986 crash.

"I'm probably feeling like most of the country is right now," Kennedy said Saturday from his home in Alberta.

"In these times we need to really think of the families, the communities, the billet families, the first responders that responded to this, their families, those people that had to respond to this horrible accident," he said.

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy was on a team bus in Saskatchewan in 1986 when it slid off an overpass and crashed into an embankment, killing four people 10:01

Being on a bus together is an important bonding time, said Kennedy, especially for teammates who are in communities they don't know.

"The bond is … a very, very tight bond. And then when the accident happens, most of those kids' parents aren't around," said Kennedy. "They're either at the game, or they're driving in or they're not there."

Kennedy said he has been in touch with other players who were on the Swift Current Broncos team when he was and they are considering heading to Saskatchewan, but said no definitive plans have been made.

While thoughts and prayers are appreciated, what the families need is support, he said. One of the ways people can do that is sending letters rather than showing up or sending money.

"Letters of support that families can read and people can read, I think, are important," he said. "If we can relate to something that those families are going [through], if we can put that down in a story to give them a little bit of strength, I think that would be impactful."

The Winnipeg Jets are donating all proceeds from Saturday's 50/50 draw to the Humboldt Broncos. The Jets, the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL will also each add $25,000 to the total.

A GoFundMe was set up for the team with a goal of $250,000 to help support the families. As of 3:45 p.m. CT Saturday, more than $1.3 million had been pledged from people across Canada.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story indicated Sheldon Kennedy was not on the Swift Current Broncos' bus when it crashed in 1986. In fact, Kennedy was on the bus at the time.
    Apr 07, 2018 1:49 PM CT