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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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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