After Humboldt Broncos crash, league urging players to buckle up on buses

Five months after a devastating bus crash, most junior hockey players admit they don't buckle up.

Some players tell CBC News they still don't wear seatbelts on team buses

This year's Humboldt Broncos unload hockey bags and equipment at a showcase event in Warman. Their bus the team chartered for its games this week does not have seat belts. (CBC)

The Weyburn Red Wings' team bus has lap and shoulder belts on every seat.

It's not clear whether anyone uses them.

Five months after a devastating crash killed 16 people on the Humboldt Broncos team bus, coaches at the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's showcase refuse to say whether they ask their players to buckle up.

Weyburn's coaches refused to talk to CBC about it.

Other SJHL players said they don't bother with seat belts.

"Guys want to sleep on the bus, especially on long trips to Flin Flon," said Jaxon White, who plays for the Flin Flon Bombers. "Every bus I've been on there have been no seat belts."

"Everyone's sitting down, lying down. It's not like everyone is standing up doing stuff," said Jaxon White, who plays for the Flin Flon Bombers.

He and other players told CBC they don't use seatbelts, in part because it makes it more uncomfortable to sleep during long road trips.

"I don't think anyone really thinks about putting a seatbelt on in a bus," White said.

'You can still have that atmosphere, but you can have a seatbelt on'

Russell Herold thinks about seatbelts more than he ever thought he would.

Raelene and Russell Herold's son Adam was the youngest Humboldt Bronco killed on the team bus when it collided with a semi-trailer on April 6. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

His son Adam was the youngest Humboldt Bronco killed in the crash, less than a week before his 17th birthday.

"You can still have fun, you can still be a group, you can still have that atmosphere, but you can have a seatbelt on," said Herold.

He said he never considered wearing a seatbelt on a team bus until the day he lost his son.

"If it saves your life, or anybody's life, does that not make a difference?" Herold said.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this summer, Herold and his wife claimed said the bus was defective, ejecting team staff and players through the roof onto the highway when it collided with a semi-trailer on April 6.

Although the Broncos' bus had lap belts, it's not clear whether anyone except the driver was buckled in.

"I have told them," said Humboldt Broncos head coach and general manager Nathan Oystrick, after being asked whether he's telling his players to buckle up. (CBC)

Players on this year's Broncos squad, who competed at a showcase in Warman Tuesday, said they're supposed to wear seatbelts on the bus.

The new head coach, Nathan Oystrick, said he tells the boys to buckle up.

But the charter bus they rode to the tournament today did not have any passenger seatbelts. New buses and passenger coaches built from 2020 onward in Canada will be required to include seatbelts.

League considering changes

In Saskatchewan, anyone in a vehicle equipped with seatbelts is required by law to use them.

But no one can remember a single instance where police pulled over a bus to enforce that—​including Bill Chow, who spent 30 years as a police officer in Prince Albert.

Today, Chow is the president of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

"It's going to be a swing in culture, a swing in tradition," said Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League president Bill Chow. "Letting the macho people check their egos at the bus door and go and sit down and put your seat belt on." (Chanss Lagaden/CBC )

He said he wants coaches, parents and team staff to buckle their seatbelts, and tell players to do the same.

"We're not going to be on every bus to make sure players are wearing their seatbelts," Chow said. "But if we make it somewhat of a mandatory concern from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to our teams moving forward, then it will be an education process."

Chow said he'll bring the idea to his league's Board of Governors this fall.

"It's going to be a swing in culture, a swing in tradition," said Chow. "Letting the macho people check their egos at the bus door and go and sit down and put your seatbelt on."

With files from Kelly Provost

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