'As parents, we all grieve,' hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser says of Humboldt Broncos crash

On the night of the vigil for 15 people killed in the Humbolt Broncos bus crash, Hayley Wickenheiser had to be home with her family and teenage son.

Olympic gold medallist marked her son's 18th birthday the night of the vigil

Hayley Wickerheiser kisses her son Noah Pachina, then a toddler, following Canada's victory at the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games in 2002. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

Canadian hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser says she would have loved to have attended the vigil for the 15 people killed in the Humbolt Broncos bus crash, but she had to be home.

"It was also my son's 18th birthday, so it was just such a contrast for me, too, as a mom of a boy," she said Monday morning.

"I just can't imagine what those parents are dealing with, who don't have their sons anymore."

Wickenheiser lives in Calgary but is from Shaunavon, Sask., a small town south of where a busload of junior hockey players crashed this weekend

A team of hockey players and coaches huddle together for a photo.
There are 24 members of the Humboldt Broncos, with members of the team ranging in age from 16 to 21. (Humboldt Broncos/Twitter)

Ten players died, along with the bus driver, a sport reporter and a statistic intern. An investigation is underway into the cause of the crash, as grief resonates across the country.

Wickenheiser has been speaking publicly about her own sadness over the tragedy.

"It's just blind faith, right? You put your kids on the bus and you pray everything's going to be OK. The odds are probably in your favour that they will, but of course, that one in a million time that it isn't — and then this situation," Wickenheiser said in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener. ​

"As parents, we all grieve because we all know that feeling."

I'm just heartbroken for the families': Hayley Wickenheiser on Humboldt Broncos bus crash

5 years ago
Duration 9:06
Wickenheiser says she knew some of the young players involved in the deadly bus crash, having met them during her time playing with the Canadian national women's team

Wickenheiser joined the Canadians Women's National Team at age 15 and now is a six-time Olympian with four gold medals.

'Very long road'

Recently, she played against some of the young men who died this weekend, so she knew them personally.

Twenty-nine people were on the bus and all 14 survivors were injured — some critically.

"Yesterday, I spoke with Greysen Cameron, who's from Olds (Alberta) in hospital," Wickenheiser said.

"Just wanted to reach out and send my wishes to the boys that are still alive and those that are fighting for their lives. It's going to be a very long road for the families."

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team included 24 players ages 16 to 21, all from Western provinces.

Wickenheiser has been co-ordinating with other professional and retired hockey players about tributes and relief efforts, and flew out of Calgary later on Monday to do continue that work.

The hockey community is galvanized to "do whatever we can," she said.

"This is a ripple effect across Canada. It's affected all of us, whether you're in hockey or not, and it's just tragic."

She is encouraging all those affected — whether they knew the victims or not — to seek support from family, friends and vigils being held across Canada.

The nature of hockey, she said, is that players can have a deep effect on their communities through sport, and that's something many Canadians can understand.

"People look up to you, they rally around you, and it's a unique situation to be in," she said.

"They would have affected thousands of people in their short time on the planet, but will not be forgotten, that's for sure."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.