Canada town’s arena focus of mourning after crash kills 15

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HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (AP) — The people of this small town grieved at their hockey arena Sunday, laying flowers and jerseys in a makeshift memorial at the entrance and later gathering inside to mourn the deaths of 15 people when a semi-trailer slammed into the bus carrying the local youth hockey team.

The 14 others on the bus were injured, some critically, in Friday night’s collision, which has Canada, its national sport and the hockey-obsessed town of Humboldt reeling. Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the injured at the hospital Sunday and then attended the vigil held in the town’s arena Sunday night. Trudeau sat among the crowd with his 11-year-old son, Xavier, a hockey player

Team President Kevin Garinger choked back tears as he read out the names of the 15 dead. People embraced each other, crying. Boxes of Kleenex were passed down rows.

Behind them, flowers ringed the team logo at center ice. In front of them, there were pictures of the dead and injured.

Humboldt pastor Sean Brandow, the team chaplain, said he was on his way to the Broncos game Friday and arrived at the scene right after the collision. He described hearing the cries and holding the hand of a lifeless body.

”I walked up and saw a scene I never want to see again, heard sounds I never want to hear again,” Brandow said.

Nick Shumlanski, an injured player who was released from the hospital, attended the vigil wearing his white, green and yellow team jersey, with a bruise under his left eye.

Residents of this town of less than 6,000 people earlier left flowers, jerseys and personal tributes on the steps of the arena’s entrance. One tribute included a Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner box, which was a favorite meal of deceased forward Evan Thomas. A bouquet of pink roses adorned the box, which read: ”to Evan, game day special, love your billet brother and sister Colten and Shelby.”

While most of the players were from elsewhere in western Canada, they were put up by families in the small town of Humboldt. Billeting families are a large part of junior hockey, with players spending years with host families.

Dennis Locke, his wife and three young children came to the arena to hang posters of forward Jaxon Joseph, who was the son of former NHL player Chris Joseph. The Locke family hosted Joseph and treated him like a son.

”Best person ever,” Locke said. ”Down to earth, loved playing with the kids.”

His wife wiped away tears from swollen eyes.

Forwards Jacob Leicht, Logan Hunter and Conner Lukan and defensemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold, Logan Boulet and Xavier Labelle were also among the dead, according to family members and others. Assistant coach Mark Cross, bus driver Glen Doerksen and stats keeper Brody Hinz, who was 18, were also killed.

Herold, who would have turned 17 Thursday, played for the Regina Pat Canadians hockey team until just weeks ago, but was sent to join the Broncos for their playoff round when the Pat Canadians’ season wrapped up, said John Smith, the Pat Canadians’ manager.

As the names of the dead emerge, ”it’s getting harder and harder,” Humboldt Mayor�Rob Muench said. ”This is going to be a long haul for us.”

Norman Mattock, a longtime season ticket holder, said his neighbor housed player Morgan Gobeil. The defenseman was severely injured and remains in serious but stable condition, Mattock said.

He said players become part of the community fabric, doing volunteer work or serving in restaurants. Three players who stayed with the same family all died in the crash, he added.

”They lost them all,” Mattock said.

The Broncos were a close-knit team who dyed their hair blond for the playoffs. The bus was driving the team to a crucial playoff game Friday against the Nipawin Hawks. Garinger said the team will continue next year and won’t disband.

The home page of the team’s website was replaced with a silhouette of a man praying beneath the Broncos’ logo of a mustang.

The pews were full Sunday at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Humboldt, where the Rev. Joseph Salish told parishioners that if they felt like crying, they should cry.

Between Masses, streams of people – many of them red-eyed from crying – hugged each other.

”We’re devastated,” said hockey club Vice President Randolph MacLEAN. ”At the center of this, we have 15 souls who’ll never go home again. We have 29 lives that will never be the same.”

MacLEAN said the community comes together at the arena on game nights that draw 800 to 1,000 people to the stands.

”It’s an energy that spreads through the town with road signs saying ‘Game tonight,’ tickets for sale everywhere,” he said.

As is the case with small town hockey across Canada, he said, the arena is not just a recreation facility, but a focus of community life with the hockey team at its center.

With players staying with local families, working in city businesses and attending local schools, the tragedy touches every corner of Humboldt, MacLEAN said.

Canadian police said the truck driver, who was not hurt, was initially detained but later released and provided with mental health assistance. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said it was too early to state a cause for the crash. Police have not said whether or not the driver was impaired.

Photographs of the wreckage showed the twisted trailer with most of its wheels in the air and the bus on its side with a portion destroyed. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection.

Police said a lot of issues remained to be investigated in the bus crash, including weather conditions at the time and any mechanical issues with the vehicles.

Associated Press writer Jeremy Hainsworth reported this story in Humboldt and AP writer Rob Gillies reported from Toronto.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.