Fred Faour: Humboldt hockey team tragedy hits close to home for all of us

Fred Faour: Humboldt hockey team tragedy hits close to home for all of us
Members of the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks honored the Humboldt Broncos by wearing the team name on their jerseys Saturday night. Jason Halstead /Getty Images

One of the worst stories of the year happened over the weekend, when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos, a junior hockey team in Saskatchewan, Canada, collided with a transport truck. It is a horrible, gut-wrenching story, one that should resonate with every parent. In the accident, 15 people were killed, and the remaining 14 on the bus suffered injuries of varying severity. It was, in short, a nightmare.

It also hit home for a lot of reasons. The hockey culture in Western Canada is much like football in Texas. Small towns take pride in their teams, and the community comes together for games. But it goes even deeper than that. The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is open to players born in North America at 20 years of age or under. They come from all over the province, and many families act as "billets," allowing the players to stay with them during hockey season. 

Rene Cannon is part of one such billeting family. She told the CBC: "We aren't built to not get attached. We take every single boy that's ever come into our house right into our hearts and into our family. They're children of our heart from the moment they walk in our door."

Two of the three young men she was hosting were killed in the crash. Making it worse, one of them was originally misidentified -- at one point she thought she had lost all three. It is impossible to read the stories like that and not feel devastated, especially when you consider how many of our own children take long bus trips and we don't think twice about it. Football teams every Friday night in the fall. Bands. Drill teams. Baseball. Softball. Soccer. Debate teams. And that's just high school.

That is one of the things that makes the story so heartbreaking. We grieve, because any parent understands. Any family understands. We grieve for the players and coaches of the Humboldt Broncos because we will never know what some of those young men could have become. One wanted to be a doctor. Another a broadcaster. All taken away in a matter of seconds in a horrible accident. Young men who could have made a difference in the world. A group of boys who were on their way to a playoff game, in what should have been a highlight of their young careers. A coach. A volunteer statistician. A radio play-by-play guy. All probably thinking about the game, and all the things that young men talk about. In an instant, so many lives were changed forever.

And the impact goes beyond the familes and the community. One of the ER doctors shared his story and called it the "most tragic night of my career." This was a man who worked in a war zone in Syria.

We also grieve for the adults lost, who devoted so much time to the team and the community. And while the cause of the crash remains unknown, the driver of the truck will have to live with this the rest of his life, even if it was not his fault. We grieve for the first responders and medical teams that saw the devasatation firsthand. No one can really train for that.

We grieve for the surviving players, because it is hard to imagine how they cope with something like this.

I've never been to Humboldt, but having spent a decent amount of time in small-town Saskatchewan, I imagine it to be like the other small towns, where there is a true sense of community. Everyone knows everyone else. Hockey is a common bond for everybody. Family often extends to neighbors as much as blood relatives. These are good, hardworking, quality people. It is not unlike growing up in small towns in Texas. The loss of one person resonates throughout a community. It's hard to even fathom something of this magnitude. 

As a writer, the greatest frustration is not having the right words. It's almost impossible to imagine what anyone can say to the people affected by this terrible tragedy. So to everyone involved, all I can say is we grieve for you. 

We grieve for all of you.

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