UPDATED; Area residents invited to sign condolence banner that will be sent to Humboldt Broncos
Tina Peplinskie/Daily Observer: Pembroke Lumber King players Noah Maika (left) and Jacob Smith visited the Pembroke Mall Wednesday along with their coach Dale McTavish in order to sign the condolence banner for their hockey brothers from the Humboldt Broncos.
From Hockey Town to Humboldt and everywhere in between, communities across Canada and beyond are looking for ways to offer support to those grieving following the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos Jr. A hockey team.
Local residents will now have an opportunity to offer words of love and encouragement by signing a banner located at the Pembroke Mall, where it will remain to gather signatures until Sunday, before it is sent to Humboldt.
Since hearing about the accident, Jayne Brophy, manager of the Pembroke Mall, has been taking in the coverage of the tragedy, all while thinking about a personal tragedy, the memories of which came flooding back even after 43 years.
Her dad was Joe was killed in a car accident on Highway 17 in January 1975, in a collision that involved a tractor trailer, similar to the Humboldt accident. Add to that the Brophys also billeted members of the Pembroke Lumber Kings years ago so she is thinking of the tragedy from the perspective of a billet family.
“It is tragic for the parents, but the boys have been living away from home, but for those billet families...” she said Tuesday. “It is very personal because we were so involved and I think what if this had ever happened to us. I can't wrap my head around that many young people being gone. I can't imagine what the community is going through.”
She said after speaking with people over the past few days, she had the sense that people were feeling helpless and didn't know what they could do, so she came up with the idea for the banner. After reaching out to Pembroke Lumber Kings's owner Dale McTavish, the city of Pembroke and SpeedPro Signs, the banner was ready to accept signatures Tuesday morning. By noon, several messages of condolence had been added, ranging from young hockey players signing with their jersey numbers to a hockey mom offering her sympathy and other community members.
McTavish and Lumber King players Jacob Smith and Noah Maika were at the mall Wednesday to sign the banner and show their support for their hockey brothers.
Smith and Maika agreed as junior hockey players, road trips on the bus are something they look forward to.
“The bus is where you become closest with your teammates, where you bond with your team, your brothers,” said Smith. “It's hard not to think that it could have been us so that is hard to handle.”
Maika added the bus is where friendships are formed.
“It's always been a safe place and everyone looks forward to the long road trips, so this is devastating,” he said.
Maika said next hockey season, it is not something he will dwell on when boarding the bus because it was a fluke accident.
“We just hope it never happens again,” he said. “It really makes you realize that tomorrow is not a given so you should live your life to the fullest because you never know what will happen.”
Smith added that even though this season is over for the Kings the reality of this tragedy is that it is still tough to comprehend and deal with, adding he couldn't look at his phone the day after the accident because the stories and images were just too much.
“It makes you put into perspective how precious life is and that we should be grateful for everyday,” he said.
Both added their words of condolence to the families by signing the banner. Maika said it is a small gesture but thinks how much it would be appreciated if something like that did happen here.
“We are known as HockeyTown and whether you are a hockey fan or not your heart just hurts,” Smith added. “It hits us harder, but the support really makes us feel safer about the situation.”
Neither are surprised by the outpouring of support simply because of the close-knit nature of the hockey world.
Still days after the tragedy, McTavish said there are no words and he called the situation heartbreaking.
“I can't imagine what the families are going through,” the coach and team owner said. “We really feel for them. It is such an awful accident, but the positive is how the hockey world is rallying to show its support for the families.”
He is pleased to be involved with the effort to provide an opportunity for local residents to offer well wishes to the families and the players who survived the horrific crash.
“It is great to see so much support for the families,” McTavish said, referring to the banner which was full on the front and messages were quickly adding up on the back side as well. A second banner has been ordered because of the overwhelming support shown by the community.
On Wednesday at lunch, among those signing the banner was a group of high school students. Therran MacLellan from Fellowes High School knows guys who play for the Lumber Kings and this was his way of paying his respects to everyone involved.
Bishop Smith student Thomas Barbieri, said it was a small gesture to offer his condolences to the families of the lost players and the survivors, but the best way to help out the affected community is to be part of the cause.
Since the collision Friday night, tributes have been pouring in from all levels of hockey, including at the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets game Saturday when the players wore the name Broncos on the back of their jerseys and the Humboldt Broncos logo on the back of their helmets to the Pembroke Lumber King hopefuls pausing for a moment of silence prior to the start of Saturday's spring evaluation camp at the PMC.
Another tribute spreading across Canada and beyond is people posting photos of hockey sticks left out on the front porch under the hashtags #SticksOutForHumboldt and #PutYourStickOut. It started with Brian Munz, TSN broadcaster for the Winnipeg Jets, when on Saturday he posted a photo on Twitter of his hockey stick with the caption “Leaving it on the porch tonight. The boys might need it...wherever they are.” He explained he received a text from a friend he went to high school with in Humboldt and encouraged others to do the same. The tweet has now been retweeted more than 6,500 times and people have responded with their own photos of hockey sticks, headphones for broadcaster Tyler Bieber and paper and a pen for statistician Brody Hinz.
On Thursday, people are encouraged to wear a hockey jersey to show their support for the Broncos in a movement that was started by hockey moms in British Columbia which has since spread across the country.