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Grieving with our Hockey Family - Processing the Humboldt Broncos Tragedy

Like most of you, since learning about the Humboldt Bronco’s bus tragedy Friday, I have been feeling devastated, for the young players and staff who lost their lives, for their families, and their friends. I have also been seeking the words and ideas to express how and why this tragedy has impacted me so fiercely, as well as others across Canada, and the world.

Of course, we are all saddened by the initial news. But the sadness turns to grief, and as the news and details sink in, as one friend said to me, you start personalizing it. It goes without saying, I suppose, that the tragedy could have happened to any team, on any road, to any players. It could have been our players, our sons, husbands, friends. And the grieving mom could have been me. Each time a team heads out on the roads with a parent or a surrogate parent, these are the risks we take with our children and our families. Buses are supposed to make things easier, help with team bonding, and keep teams safe.

humboldt broncos logo
humboldt broncos logo

The nation’s response to this tragedy has been overwhelming. I watched today as the GoFundMe  account for the Humboldt Broncos initially started with a $100,000 goal. When I posted the link on the Canadian Hockey Moms Facebook page, it had already reached $79,000, within six minutes it was at $84,000. The goal was increased to $200,000, then 1 million, then 2 million. Currently, the goal sits at $4 million dollars. I am sure that vast response and generosity of monetary donors is second only to the personal and human response of the people of Saskatchewan, and the people of Humboldt community. I know that good, local people are doing everything they can to ease the pain of everyone involved, and I personally find that, at least, comforting. I know the friends and families of those involved in the accident do as well.

But why are we, most of us so much further away, so impacted by this tragedy? Yes, it was a senseless loss of life. Of course we feel that, and it hurts. But this devastation also feels like an assault on a piece of our national fabric. Hockey is what we do. These road trips along lonely highways are part of that. This… is not supposed to happen.

For those of us who have been part of the Hockey Family, as well as it’s trials and tribulations, you know that when you play hockey in Canada you are part of something special. Yes, maybe it’s stressful sometimes, and it causes people to do irrational things. We most often hear about the sensational and negative events associated with hockey in the news, and it taints the perception of those both within and outside of the sport. Yet those of us who are part of this special world also know the other side. We know how hard the Broncos were working towards their goal. We know the bonds that had been formed between teammates, we know the hours of dedication and sacrifice that had been committed by the bench staff. We know it because we have been a part of that. We can feel what it’s like, its tangible.

As parents of hockey players, we watch and understand the friendships that develop between the players. We personally celebrate the growth in our child as they work towards their team’s goals. We value the relationships developed with other parents, and we appreciate knowing that other parents will look out for our kid, whether we are there or not. While our children might change teams, the formula stays the same. We know these things because we have lived these dynamics, on countless teams, in countless rinks, across the country.

While I was watching the press conference yesterday afternoon, I thought of a peaceful morning a couple years ago when I was walking down the driveway to the bus with my middle child, who was eleven years old at the time.

Out of the blue he said to me; do you know what’s funny, Mom?… I always feel happy playing hockey. And to me, that said it all.

Hockey families understand the love of their children for the game. It’s why we love watching them play, sacrifice entire days and weekends to drive the long distances, and it's why we are willing to live out of hotels. It’s why we support our children sometimes to the detriment of ourselves, and give our children what we can to help them follow their dreams and their passion. It’s why we encourage our sons and daughters to keep playing, until they are 15, 16, 17, 100 years old. It’s why some players move away at a young age, so they can continue to play to the best of their abilities. And it’s why the Humboldt Broncos were on that bus on the way to their playoff game.

A friend told me tonight that it was too painful to follow the tragedy and learn the details. Part of me fully understands that. I personally feel like a voyeur watching something unfold that I can not possibly comprehend. It almost seems like I’m being insensitive looking in on a team and an association’s and a community’s pain.

The other side of me wants to know what happened, to understand more about the lives of those who were lost, and the survivors. I want to know it and absorb it, and feel it, on behalf of everyone involved. Though it seems ridiculous, I hold on to the hope that somehow my knowing and acknowledging all of the lives and the loss of those boys and men who loved hockey, as well as those on the long road to recovery, this will somehow ease and absorb some of the survivor’s and the families’ and the friends’ pain. In a moment of shared helplessness, the nation, I believe, is doing the same. We are trying to ease the burden for these Hockey Families.

That is something I would do for my Hockey Family, because I know they would do it for me.

For those of you wishing to donate to the Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe campaign, you can do so here.

For those personally impacted by the tragedy, God bless you all, and we, your Hockey Family, will do what we can to hold you up in your time of need.

You can contact me at, or leave a message on our Facebook page.

Theresa Bailey is a Hockey Mom of three, the current President of her local Minor Hockey Association, and holds a Masters in Community Psychology. She has been building the Canadian Hockey Moms community since 2010.

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