'Scars that last a lifetime:' Saskatchewan hockey league announces support program after tragic bus crash

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has announced a new program to support players after the Humboldt Broncos were involved in a crash that killed 15 people associated with the team.

15 dead, 14 wounded in highway crash

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy survived a team bus crash in 1986 and says long-term support is essential. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC )

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has announced a new program that will support players and families after the Humboldt Broncos were involved in a crash that killed 15 people associated with the team.

Fourteen people were injured when the bus collided with a semi-trailer at about 5 p.m. CST on Friday as the team travelled to a playoff game.

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The league said the new program will provide support for all players and families that were affected by the crash.

"Whoever needs help will get the help they need," said Bill Chow, president of the SJHL. "That's a billet family, that's a billet child, that's a billet brother, it's a billet sister. Whoever needs that help."

The program is intended to provide long-term help to those affected.

Sheldon Kennedy said he's happy with the program's long-term focus. In 1986, the former NHL player survived a bus crash while playing for the Swift Current Broncos that killed four people and wounded 24.

"We know the impact of trauma, we know the impact of PTSD," said Kennedy. "And we know the scars that last a lifetime are real."

Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League president Bill Chow has said that a decision to continue with the playoffs came as a result of long discussions, and an unanimous decision by the board. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC )

Kennedy said his experiences have taught him the importance of counselling that takes place over years.

"We have to have something that is sustainable for those people long term," he said. "That's what we learned coming out of the '86 crash."

The SJHL is looking for corporate and individual donations for the project. So far, Federated Co-operatives Limited and a number of local co-ops have raised more than $300,000.

The new program is separate from a massively successful online fundraising campaign that has raised $5.6 million for players and families so far.

Chow said the league is still in discussions surrounding the future of this year's playoff season. That should be decided in the next few days.