|The Humboldt Broncos team photo for 2017-18|
By map, there are 2,092 kilometres between Prince Rupert and Humboldt, Saskatchewan, if you were to take to the highway like those aboard the Humboldt Bronco's team bus did on Friday night, it would take you 22 hours and five minutes to travel the distance from the ocean shoreline of the North Coast to the deepest part of the Canadian prairie heartland.
Yet, on a spring weekend in April, Humboldt, as far as it may be on a map, became a place as close as the neighbour on either side of our homes, a neighbour who has suffered one of the most unimaginable situations that anyone should have to go through.
The first indications of the horrific scene that came to pass on a rural highway in Saskatchewan arrived in the early part of Friday evening, with the string of urgent news reports of a mass casualty collision between the bus and a semi-trailer.
As Saturday arrived the shocking numbers of those who had perished, or been hurt began to be released and the full scope of the tragedy became so heart wrenchingly clear.
The listing of the names makes for a chronicle of a brotherhood of young players from age 16 to 21, an aspiring broadcaster, a statistician and the team's coaches, all taken from their families, friends and community far too early in their lives.
All engaged in one of the most iconic of Canadian rituals, a weekend road trip for a hockey game, in this case, a playoff match up with their rivals of the Saskatchewan Junior League in Nipawin.
The Prime Minister in a message of condolence made note of that very Canadian ritual as he offered his thoughts and words for those of Humboldt.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare. No one should ever have to see their child leave to play the sport they love and never come back. ... Our national hockey family is a close one, with roots in almost every town – small and big – across Canada. Humboldt is no exception, and today the country and the entire hockey community stands with you."
For any parent and family in Prince Rupert who has ever put a son or daughter, brother, sister, husband or wife on a bus to pursue a passion, this weekend has hit home.
If you take a minute to think of it, the list of those from the North Coast that travel the highways of our province is rather extensive, starting with hockey, there is the Prince Rupert Rampage, along with the teams of Women's and Prince Rupert Minor Hockey.
Also making those similar journeys through the year is a range of sports teams, theatre groups, musicians, and other pursuits at Charles Hays Secondary, or Prince Rupert Middle School, along with the large list of community teams and groups that are all part of the fabric of this community.
Like any community in Canada, those of us living on the North Coast know the highway routine far too well, the long distance trips often into the heart of a winter.
Those extended periods of travel something that leave you never really at rest, until the bus makes the final turn on the highway and delivers a safe return home.
It is from those shared experiences that we pause and give our thoughts of those in Humboldt, a city probably not much different than ours, one that is steeped in community; a place that may be far away, yet this weekend is so close for all of us and one now dealing with something that just leaves you shaken.
The police officers, fire fighters, ambulance personnel and travellers who stopped to help, as well as the doctors and nurses at the hospitals, all thrust into those tests of faith that leave far too many answers than we could ever imagine.
A Go Fund Me page that has clearly resonated with Canadians this weekend, with over three and a half million dollars donated so far for the families of those affected by Friday's tragedy.
As well, the Saskatchewan Junior League has also outlined that they are accepting donations on behalf of the Humboldt Broncos through their offices.
A vigil is planned in Humboldt for this evening, a night that originally was on the calendar as a home date for the Broncos playoff game, a night that now will serve a very different purpose.
The Elgar Petersen Arena makes for the gathering space for Humboldt residents to come together as one to grieve, a community that will be in the thoughts of an extended family from across Canada.
Sportsnet Pacific has plans to broadcast the remembrance starting at 6 PM Pacific time. The Canadian News Networks, most likely will provide coverage of that vigil as well.
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