I’m on twitter a lot, more than the average person I’d assume. That being said, I frequently come across bad, even tragic news, almost daily. So Friday night, scrolling through twitter moments, it was no surprise to see there was a major bus accident trending. Nonetheless, I decided to look into it and see what the fallout would be. It was in the next 30 seconds that the wind was knocked out of me, my hands went numb, and my eyes began to water. With each click, I made discovery after gut-wrenching discovery. Oh wow, it was in Canada, good lord those are just kids, Jesus Christ it was a junior hockey team. My phone, silently crashed onto the carpet beneath me, hands over my head, thinking, selfishly, how many times I’d been on a bus identical to the one the Humboldt Broncos were on that night. The night that ended 15 innocent lives. The same night that parents, waiting for their sons to show up to their playoff game, found out they’d never cheer them on from the stands again. And I cried.
I never knew any of those young men, never met the coach, never shared a brew with the team announcer. I didn’t have to. I had only every heard of Humboldt a handful of times. I know their drive, their passion, and their goals. I know coaching, grew up with some amazing coaches myself, and man do I love commentating games. We’ve all, as sports fans, been through tough times. We’re given this macho narrative that you simply say a prayer, or point to the sky and move on. That’s just not how this works. Frankly, it’s not healthy. We see devastating news and play it off like it’s part of the game, like we’re not fully invested in it, or “I never knew him so I won’t or don’t have the right to cry. I’ll tell you right now, that’s bullshit. The sporting community, or sports focused audience, should feel gratified, and given the right to reach out, to shed a tear, to be bothered by losing someone they may not know but have a connection with through something they both love. Tragedies deserve to be mourned, without feeling guilty, or accused of taking advantage of a solemn scenario.
I cried for those boys. Grieved with those parents, siblings, and friends. No, not with my arm around them, but you can just feel it. It’s almost like your heartbeat slows down, and the spirit of those who shared the love for your sport fills your body with a rejuvenated appreciation for all that sport has given you. There’s an echo with each stick tap, which breaks open your imagination, to watch those we’ve lost, lace em up one last time. It’s not just hockey, that’s just my community. Steve McNair, Sean Taylor, NFL fans felt that pain alongside the families. Roy “Doc” Halladay, Jose Fernandez, changed baseball and it’s fans forever, before they passed. I want you, NEED you, as a sports fan, to know it’s okay to be hurt, even devastated. You don’t have to have lunch everyday with your heroes to know them. I didn’t have to play with the Broncos to understand who they were. Kids, pursuing a dream, riding a team bus, arguably the time a player feels the most secure, and they were loved. Loved by family and friends, and this unyielding support from the hockey world would have brought them to their knees. Because that’s what it’s done for all of us.
The point of this is not to harp on tragedy, but to find a better way to deal with the visceral reaction we all have to news like this. Love your sport, love the athletes you watch every day. Understand how lucky you are, or were, to have played the game on any level. Because for each sports fan, there’s a time to cheer for some, and time to grieve with all.
For myself, my fiancée, my friends and family who I’ve spoken about this with, I extend my fullest support condolences to the Humboldt Broncos family in this trying time. If you’re reading this and would like to make a donation to the teams gofundme page, please click the link below.