All of Canada mourned the victims of deadly Humboldt Broncos crash
April 6 collision killed 16 and injured 13 others
The horrific crash of a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos in April that left 16 people dead was a tragedy that brought hockey fans and Canadians together in grief, but also in celebration of the nation's most unifying pastime.
On April 6, a bus carrying 29 members and staff of the Humboldt Broncos team collided with semi-trailer truck on a rural highway near Tisdale, Sask.
The 2016-17 Humboldt, Sask., junior hockey team was en route to Nipawin, Sask., for a semifinal playoff game.
A vigil was held at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt, where mourners offered comfort and support.
With the entire nation mourning alongside Humboldt, people across the country — and even overseas — put their hockey sticks outside their doors in honour of the players. The social media movement quickly went viral.
Makeshift memorials popped up at the intersection where the collision happened, and also at Elgar Petersen Arena, the Broncos' home rink.
The National Hockey League, many of whose players travelled those exact roads as junior players, also paid tribute. At a game the day following the crash, the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks stood together at centre ice for a moment of silence while wearing Broncos on the back of their jerseys.
Community continues to mourn
Soon the funerals began. Though the Humboldt community was directly impacted by the tragedy, it reached well beyond the town's borders. Many of the players came from other cities and towns, living with billet families in Humboldt. Funeral services took place throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Head coach and general manager Darcy Haugan was one of those killed. He is remembered by everyone in the community as not only a great coach, but also as a great person.
At the 2018 NHL Awards, Haugan's widow, Christina, accepted the inaugural Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award on his behalf. The award was presented to her by some of the surviving members of the Broncos team her husband led. The award "recognizes an individual who — through the game of hockey — has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society."
Healing and triumph in face of tragedy
As awful as the crash was, the survivors never wavered in their commitment to recover from the tragedy. Many, like Ryan Straschnitzki who is paralyzed from the waist down due to a spinal cord injury suffered in the crash, were left with a long road ahead.
Despite his injury, Straschnitzki never lost his love for sport — switching his attention to para ice hockey along with Humboldt teammate Jacob Wassermann.
While the healing continued off the ice, the community gathered for a new season at the Humboldt Broncos home opener on Sept. 12. Returning players Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter were joined by their surviving former teammates.
Though the tragic loss of life will never be forgotten, the first game was cathartic for a community that had suffered so much throughout the six months prior.