British Columbia

Humboldt Broncos tragedy touches British Columbians

People across British Columbia are paying tribute to the victims and survivors of the fatal collision involving the Humboldt Broncos, an ice hockey team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Many residents have been inspired to pay their respects through community vigils and fundraisers

A memorial outside the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena where the BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings hockey team play. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

People across British Columbia are paying tribute to the victims and survivors of the fatal collision involving the Humboldt Broncos, an ice hockey team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. 

Fifteen people were killed and 14 others injured when the bus carrying the team and other personnel collided with a transport truck at a highway intersection.

Prince George Spruce Kings' General Manager Mike Hawes said his team was deeply shaken by the events.

"The world is small, but the hockey world is even smaller," Hawes said, noting some of the players on his team had played hockey with some of the players on the Humboldt team. 

A woman signs a banner for the Humboldt players in Prince George, British Columbia. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

Hawes said the tragedy is on everyone's minds as their team makes the long bus trip to Wenatchee, Wash., to play in the B.C. Hockey League championship series, where they plan to do a special commemoration.

"It's everybody's worst nightmare that's involved in the hockey world," he said. "You just hope and pray that it never happens."

'A community that comes together'

Ramandeep Dhanjal, who is an equipment manager with the Prince George Cougars, has a deep connection to Humboldt.

He worked as an athletic trainer with the Humboldt Broncos a decade ago.

"It was hard getting that news on Friday," Dhanjal said.

Ramandeep Dhanjal has close ties to the community of Humboldt, Sask. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

Dhanjal was part of a group of people on Tuesday who signed a banner in support of Humboldt.

"Prince George, to me, is just like Humboldt. It's a great hockey community. It's a community that comes together."

Paying respect

Other communities have organized vigils to pay their respects. There are similar events planned for Thursday in Port Alberni, Shawnigan Lake and Coquitlam among others.

Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff of Castlegar is organizing a vigil in her community.

"I just think the hockey community is a really tight-knit, really small community in B.C. and across Canada. The people that play for the Selkirk Saints knew people that were killed," Heaton-Sherstobitoff said.

"It's a small province. We know a lot of people. I just want Castlegar to show its respect."

The Lighthouse Church in Ladner, B.C., held a vigil to bring people together in one room to grieve and honour the victims of the tragic bus crash. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Jersey day, #SticksOut and donations

Elsewhere in the province, people touched by the tragedy organized other acts of kindness.

A group of self-described hockey moms from Langley, B.C., have organized a jersey day in support of Broncos families for Thursday, April 12. Members of the Abbotsford Police service are also participating.

In Dawson Creek, Cory Pearson has organized a fundraiser at his restaurant.

"It hit home pretty hard for me," said Pearson, who survived a bus accident near Grand Prairie that killed two people.

A spokesperson for British Columbia's organ donation agency said it saw more than a sixfold increase in online registrations over the weekend. Many social media users say they were inspired by the story of player Logan Boulet, whose organs were donated.

Numerous residents across B.C. also participated in the #SticksOutForHumboldt social media campaign

The campaign started with a post which showed a lonely hockey stick left out on the front step of a home with the message, "Leaving it out on the porch tonight. The boys might need it ... wherever they are."

Donations also continued to flood a GoFundMe campaign, which topped $7 million by Tuesday afternoon. The CEO of the online service says the response was "absolutely unprecedented."

With files from Andrew Kurjata, Audrey Mckinnon, and Radio West

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