'As parents, we all grieve,' hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser says of Humboldt Broncos crash
Olympic gold medallist marked her son's 18th birthday the night of the vigil
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
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."
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.
Immensely thankful for seeing <a href="https://twitter.com/Gcams9?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Gcams9</a> and knowing he's doing okay. Love you man, get better soon, we are here with you. 💚💛 Thoughts and prayers go out for the rest of the players, families and friends affected by this tragedy. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HumboldtStrong?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HumboldtStrong</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZW01dwOAk2">pic.twitter.com/ZW01dwOAk2</a>—@Levi0031
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."
Jumping on a ✈️ to be w/ <a href="https://twitter.com/paulbrandt?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@paulbrandt</a> and honour those affected. Left my stick out front, not just any stick, my first hockey stick ever, from Shaunavon. Classsic wooden Titan. Hope the boys don’t use it, nothing but muffins coming out of that thing! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/humboldtstrong?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#humboldtstrong</a> <a href="https://t.co/jb3TnTRN0t">pic.twitter.com/jb3TnTRN0t</a>—@wick_22
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."
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.