Artists create sobering, emotional tributes to Humboldt Broncos

Even from across the pond in France, Kerry Macgregor felt drawn to the twin tragedies of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and the death of Ottawa-area teen Jonathan Pitre.

'The best place for them seemed to be the one they were all dreaming of,' says artist

The rink seemed the place Jonathan Pitre and the Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims were meant to be, said writer Kerry Macgregor. (Kerry MacGregor)

Even from across the pond, Kerry MacGregor felt a chill upon hearing of two tragedies tied by hockey — the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and the death of Ottawa-area teen Jonathan Pitre.

The Ottawa-born writer, who lives near Nice, France, had followed closely the story of Pitre, the 17-year-old whose determination in the face of epidermolysis bullosa served as an inspiration as he raised awareness about the rare and painful skin disease.

The public learned of Pitre's death last Friday, the same day the charter bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-trailer at an intersection northeast of Saskatoon. Fifteen members of the team and organization were killed.

The bus crash also reminded her of June 27, 1999, when five teens from Kanata — friends, she says, of her brother — died in a violent crash on Highway 7.

"Even though I'm far away maybe that's what sort of drew my emotions that way," said MacGregor, who responded with a drawing, which has spread across social media.

It shows a group of hockey players — one with Humboldt Broncos written on his uniform — asking a boy with "Pitre" on his jersey, "Hey, you want to play?"

Despite a condition that prevented him from playing hockey, Pitre was an avid fan of the NHL's Ottawa Senators and became close with the team after he began to share his story.

The rink, it seemed, was the place all of these young men should be, MacGregor said.

"It seemed the best place. I'm not a religious person at all, but the ideal place, the best place for them seemed to be the one they were all dreaming of," she added.

'When I finished it, I had tears'

MacGregor's drawing is one of several works from artists trying to honour the teens killed in the crash.

Something about the bus crash also led Kingston, Ont., artist Silvia Pecota to finally finish a piece she had started more than a decade ago.

Her illustration shows a hockey player in a green "BRONCOS" sweater stepping out into a sunny, Arctic-like landscape, representing the afterlife.

The player is wearing the number 15 to represent the number of people killed in Friday's crash.

"I do quite a bit of artwork with the military and dedicated to the fallen … Something overcomes me and almost every single time I'm creating something [like this] there's a force inside me that takes over," she said.

"When I finished it, I had tears [in my eyes]."

The piece, done on Photoshop with a pen and touch computer screen, was started as more of a tribute to the 2006 Olympics.

"I have no idea [why I thought of it]," Pecota said.

Her Facebook post of the image is by far her most popular ever, she said.

She plans to touch up a few minor details and send it to the Broncos once some time has passed.

"I want to show ... Canada is behind them, supporting them," she said.​

'It's really sobering'

The tragedy compelled Ottawa artist Christopher Griffin to arrange 15 stainless steel hockey players as a personal tribute.

"When you actually lay 15 figures out you realize how many individuals that is," he said.

"It's really sobering. Even arranging them, I'm relating to the fact that these are individual kids. It was emotional."

Griffin said he's sharing in the grief of the country and hoping he can do a small part to help the people affected by this.

"At times like this anyone who can come together and make things a little bit better … it's not really a responsibility but I'm glad to do it."

Christopher Griffin repurposed sculptures he made last year for this photo tribute to the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Christopher Griffen)