I was there, with the West Kildonan North Stars and as a young sports writer tracking the Portage Terriers, St. Boniface Mohawks and Winnipeg Clubs—from River City deep into the B.C. interior—for the Winnipeg Tribune and Winnipeg Sun.
The experience was especially eerie and discomforting at night, when most everybody on the bus had nodded off, the travelling party comprised of teenage hockey players, adult coaches, support staff and media, all of us weary after another difficult game in a difficult, hostile environment or the rush of meeting another urgent newspaper deadline. I never slept well on the iron lung, if at all. Thus, I was always aware of a haunting poetry to the on-bus silence and the bleak darkness of the night sky over a wide-open, flat and vast land before we would arrive at the Rocky Mountains and their special challenges. Only the soft, steady hum of rubber tires on pavement, a set of headlights and two steady hands on the wheel guided us on our way. We never thought much about getting from one small prairie town to the next, or successfully navigating the snake-like routes through the Rockies. We just assumed we would make it. Night or day.
The Humboldt Broncos didn’t on Friday. Fifteen of them are dead. Another 14 wounded after a semi truck reportedly t-boned their team bus. I weep for them.
So sad. So very, very sad.
Give your hockey-playing daughter or son a special hug today. She or he might need it.