Clichés are often overused in the sports world, but sometimes they are simply the best way to express what we mean. In the wake of the bus crash which killed 15 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, the cliché “It’s more than a game” is the best expression to use.
The crash occurred in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, on Friday, claiming the lives of 10 players, the head coach, an assistant coach, a stats expert, the team announcer, and the bus driver. As of Monday, 12 survivors remained in the hospital, according to The Globe and Mail, a Canadian paper.
Each player killed was between the age of 16 and 21, leaving parents and family members in shocked grief. The community of Humboldt rallied around the families, spontaneously gathering at the team’s arena to comfort, mourn, and sit and look out at the empty ice. Still, many residents show their support by wearing team sweaters when they go out.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and legendary hockey announcers Don Cherry and Ron MacLean attended a ceremony on Sunday for those lost. The incident also garnished condolences and mourning from the Canadian Royal Family and the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Perhaps the most powerful outpouring, however, came from those tied to the young men by nothing more than a game. On Saturday the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks gathered at center ice before their game, observing a moment of silence while wearing jerseys with “BRONCOS” replacing the last names of players.
The public address announcer told the crowd, “In hockey, we’ve learned that you don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey, but for the Crest on the front. But tonight, we play for the name on the backs of these jerseys: the Humboldt Broncos.” After a near minute-long moment of silence and a rendition of “O Canada” which left no attendee silent and no eye dry, the players embraced, not as Jets and Hawks, but as members of the hockey community.
Across Canada and the United States the outpouring took personal tones. Thousands of players, parents, and coaches within the hockey family placed hockey sticks surrounded by candles on their porches, “just in case the boys need one,” as many put it on social media. My 11-year-old nephew was one such player.
He didn’t know anybody on that bus and probably couldn’t have told you there was a hockey team in Humboldt, but he felt a connection to those young men, even at his age. This community is what makes sports so much more than a game.
The key, however, is to remind ourselves of this outside of tragedy. Of course, we ought to come together in times of duress, but we must also remember this closeness in everyday competition. Whether it’s assisting an injured opponent, holding your tongue toward an official, or anything similar, we should keep the greater picture in mind. As any of us know, this is not always easy to do, but it’s what being part of a community is all about.