There are now 15 people dead following a bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos, a Saskatchewan junior hockey team, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Saturday.
The bus, which was carrying 29 players and coaches, along with the driver, was hit by a semi-trailer as the team was on its way to Nipawin for a playoff game Friday night. Fourteen people were injured.
Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz, 20, Adam Herold, 16, Jaxon Joseph, 20, and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.
“Our thoughts are with the players, families, coaches, team management and all those throughout the community who have been affected by the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The NHL mourns the passing of those who perished and offers strength and comfort to those injured while traveling to play and be part of a game they all love.”
Speaking at the news conference on Saturday, RCMP Saskatchewan Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki revealed new details about the crash and the investigation.
He said the male driver of the semi-trailer was not injured and, although he was detained temporarily after the collision, he has now been released.
Zablocki said it was too early to comment on the cause of the collision, but he confirmed the semi-trailer was travelling westbound on Highway 335 when it collided with the bus travelling northbound on Highway 35.
The tragedy hit close to home for many around the hockey world.
“All the best stories are told on the busses, in the locker rooms, in the private areas where it’s just them. It’s contained,” said Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “It’s where the friendships are born, the anticipation builds, the quietness of a bus after a tough loss — all things that you go through when you’re playing a sport. It’s so much a part of sporting life, hockey life, especially at that age. To have it end like that, to have it be a part of all of the survivor’s lives now, it’s just an incredibly difficult thing.”
“It’s huge. You look at all the small towns across Saskatchewan, everyone knows everybody, everyone comes to the games. You look at the support the community has to make sure those teams survive. You’re impacted by some of those victims, whether you billeted them, served them at the restaurants, coached them. Everything is so interconnected there. It’s crazy. It’s a huge loss to the community,” said Jets forward Adam Lowry, an alum of the Swift Current Broncos, who lost four players in a 1986 bus crash, including Brent Ruff, brother of long-time NHL head coach Lindy Ruff.
Moments of silence were held around NHL rinks on Saturday night, including in Winnipeg where players from the Jets and Chicago Blackhawks gathered at center ice while wearing jerseys with BRONCOS on the backs.
Sylvie Kellington, a resident of Humboldt, started a GoFundMe page on Friday night to support the families of the victims and the players and staff who were injured as a result of the crash. Support quickly poured in and as of Saturday night there has been close to $3 million given, which includes donations from the Blackhawks, Jets, Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens, among others.
With files from Scott Billeck and the AP
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.