Calgary·Video

Car dealership boosts Humboldt crash donation after hundreds of people leave hockey sticks

A Calgary car dealership set out to donate to the Humboldt Broncos crash fundraiser, pledging $250 for every hockey stick left in tribute up to a maximum of 40. But when hundreds of people dropped by with sticks, the plan changed.

More than 900 hockey sticks have been dropped off at Jack Carter dealership

More than 900 have been dropped off at a car dealership 0:58

Hundreds of hockey sticks — some old and some new — line the building at Calgary's Jack Carter Chevrolet.

They act as a solemn reminder of the 16 lives lost in the Humboldt bus crash last week, but they're also a beacon of hope for hockey players of the future. 

On Monday, the southeast Calgary dealership set out to donate $250 for every hockey stick left outside the business. The dealership promised up to $10,000 toward the GoFundMe campaign for those impacted by the crash.

Jay McKeen, the business' managing partner, said he was struck by images he had seen of people leaving hockey sticks out on their porches.

"I immediately put one out on my own porch … and then I was thinking, 'is there something we can do as a business? We've got a big porch.'

Jay McKeen is the managing partner of Jack Carter Chevrolet dealership in southeast Calgary. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

"By the time I got to work, there was already 40 sticks here … and through the day on Tuesday it just started gaining momentum."

By Tuesday morning, the company had already blown past its goal. Since then, it's raised the donation amount to $55,000.

Maurice Plemel, owner of Colony Chevrolet in Humboldt, Sask., said the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.

"We went from, when it first happened, being in a state of absolute shock and disbelief — we didn't know what to do. And then this outpouring started happening. It made us aware we're not alone.

"Instead of worrying, we can plan to do whatever we have to, to get through this."

Dealership employee Bob Allen dropped off his own stick knowing the city would unite in the face of a tragedy.

"I mean look at Fort McMurray, look at the B.C. wildfires, now look at the Humboldt tragedy," he said. "Canadians step up, I think Calgary more so than anywhere else."

Allen said what he found most heartwarming is a note on one of the sticks.

A note reading, 'Every stick needs a puck. Thoughts and prayers for Humboldt' is left with the hockey sticks outside the Jack Carter dealership. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

"We had a surprise this morning when we came in," he told CBC. "[The note says] 'Every stick needs a puck. Thoughts and prayers for Humboldt.' And people were leaving a loonie on their sticks. A wonderful gesture."

More than 900 sticks had been dropped off as of Thursday and the dealership is hoping to collect 1,000 in total.

They won't be going to waste. The company said they'll be donated in the Humboldt Broncos' name to Comrie's Sports Equipment Bank, which supports KidSport Calgary and The Hockey Foundation.

"These sticks in and of themselves have value," said McKeen. "Our hope would be that down the road a kid will have a stick, but it will be a Humboldt stick."

KidSport works to remove barriers that prevent Calgary-area children from participating in sports and The Hockey Foundation promotes hockey internationally in underserved areas around the world. 

'Hockey is the fabric of so many communities'

Russell Gillespie, general manager of Comrie's Sports Equipment Bank, said the gesture was "just wonderful." 

"One of the both sad and happy realities of a tragedy like this is it impacts people so heavily. They can't help but join forces together and come up with ways to make the world better and it has an instant impact on the community surrounding, and when it's big enough like this it has a ripple effect all across Canada."

Plemel said it's important to the Humboldt community that the donations are spreading the love of the game.

"Hockey is the fabric of so many communities. It has to carry on and it will," he said. 

Hundreds of hockey sticks have been left outside of a Calgary business to raise funds for and remember the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Gillespie said his organization will be sharing in passing on the team's story as the hockey sticks get distributed.

"These sticks have come from a really tender part of the heart, and have come with the best intention of creating a new start for someone else," he said.

Sixteen people were killed and thirteen injured when a semi-trailer collided with the junior hockey team's bus on a highway north of Tisdale, Sask., on Friday evening. 

The GoFundMe campaign had raised over $10 million by Thursday.

With files from Julie Debeljak