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Canada Canada’s hockey world reeling in wake of Humboldt Broncos bus crash that left 14 dead

The coach and team captain of a young amateur hockey team travelling to a playoff game are among 14 dead after a semi-trailer crashed into their team bus, an accident that has reverberated across the hockey world and devastated a province where the sport is the sinew that connects far-flung Prairie towns and sparks the NHL dreams of city and rural kids alike.

The death of the popular coach, Darcy Haugan, was confirmed by his wife and his sister. He had been coaching the Humboldt Broncos for about four years, according to his sister Deborah Carpenter. He was 41, married, and the father of two boys.

Head coach and general manager Darcy Haugan, centre, is shown in team photo of the 2016/2017 Humboldt Broncos hockey team as it hangs in Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt, Sask., on Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

“His passion and compassion came from his walk with the Lord,” Ms. Carpenter said in an interview Saturday.

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“He was my little brother,” she said. “He just turned over my world. He was just this great playmate and someone I could torment, someone I could play ball with. We were a sports family - he and I played a lot of sports in our backyard.”

Team captain Logan Schatz was also among the dead, his father, Kelly Schatz, confirmed to The Canadian Press.

Mr. Schatz said his 20-year-old son played for the Broncos for just over four years and had served as team captain for the past two-and-a-half years.

He said his son’s death is hard and the family is seeking solace in one another. “It’s hard,” Mr. Schatz said. “I’ve got four other kids and they’re here, which is nice.”

Humboldt Broncos centre Logan Schatz is shown in this undated team photo. The captain of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team is among 14 dead following a horrific bus crash in Saskatchewan.

HO/The Canadian Press

The RCMP confirmed early Saturday morning that 29 people were on the bus, including the driver, and 14 were killed. Fifteen were taken to hospital with a range of injuries, including three in critical condition.

The Humboldt Broncos were travelling to Nipawin for a must-win Game 5 playoff match when the accident happened late Friday afternoon about 300 kilometres north of Regina.

DETAIL

B.C.

ALTA.

ONT.

U.S.

0

100

Scene of fatal

bus crash

KM

Nipawin

SASKATCHEWAN

Tisdale

3

35

Saskatoon

Humboldt

MAN.

16

5

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: rcmp; google maps

DETAIL

MANITOBA

B.C.

ALTA.

Scene of fatal

bus crash

Nipawin

U.S.

SASKATCHEWAN

Tisdale

3

Lake

Winnipegosis

35

Saskatoon

Humboldt

16

5

0

100

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: rcmp; google maps

DETAIL

B.C.

ALTA.

MANITOBA

Scene of

fatal bus

crash

Nipawin

U.S.

SASKATCHEWAN

3

Tisdale

Lake

Winnipegosis

35

Saskatoon

Humboldt

16

5

0

100

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: rcmp; google maps

The Broncos range in age from 18 to 21. They play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, a mid-tier junior league where amateur teens and 20-year-olds strive to either get college scholarships or move up to semi-professional contracts in bigger leagues. The Broncos have won the most titles in the 50-year history of the league, but finished fifth out of 12 teams this regular season.

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Most of the players are from Saskatchewan and Alberta. In a province as spread out as Saskatchewan, teams often travel three or more hours in brutal winter conditions to get to the rink, where 5,000 fervid fans can show up in towns with populations just over double that.

Mr. Haugan played on a string of teams in Canada, the United States, and Europe, as he tried to make it to the National Hockey League. One of Ms. Carpenter’s favourite memories of her brother came when he played with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders, a Junior A team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

She was about to become a single mom and Mr. Haugan’s teammates asked him how he felt about becoming a father. That’s when he figured it out: The siblings were so close everyone thought they were dating, Ms. Carpenter said.

Mr. Haugan was born in Peace River, Alberta. He went to Michigan on a hockey scholarship, although did not finish there. Later, he played hockey in Sweden. The coach played right wing and was a right-handed shooter, his sister said. When he was a kid, he wore the number their dad wore.

“I’ll always remember him as No. 5,” Ms. Carpenter said.

Tributes, condolences and messages of shock began flooding in by Saturday morning, with Saskatchewan’s premier and Canada’s prime minister expressing sadness and NHL names from local heroes to hall-of-famers struggled to explain the magnitude of the tragedy.

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Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, a Saskatchewan native, spoke about the tragedy after his team’s morning skate on Saturday. He grew up in Saskatoon and said, “I know that road pretty good.”

“The hockey world’s an unbelievable world, you can’t make up for loss, you just can’t,” said Babcock, who struggled to speak through his emotions. “I can’t even imagine being a parent [of one of the victims]. It’s got to rip the heart out of your chest. We pray for those families and think about them. I don’t know what else you say. Horrific, horrific accident. Tough day.”

Members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team are shown in a photo posted to the team Twitter feed, @HumboldtBroncos on March 24, 2018 after a playoff win over the Melfort Mustangs.

The Canadian Press

Bryan Trottier, inducted into the Hall of Fame for his play with the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins between 1975 and 1994, is a native of Val Marie, Sask., south of Swift Current.

“Oh God, it’s horrible,” Mr. Trottier, 61, said in an interview. “I just know the hockey guys, it doesn’t matter what league you’re in, when something like this happens in the game of hockey it hits you, not even a punch to the gut, it’s a punch to the heart.”

Mr. Trottier got his start with the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League and also played for the Moose Jaw Canucks in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in 1971-1972.

“You know, I have no words to express the right way I feel right now other than shock. All of the communities in Saskatchewan will feel the effect.”

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement noting, “Our thoughts are with the players, families, coaches, team management and all those throughout the community.”

“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.”

The president of the team said parents from across Western Canada were rushing to the scene as they struggle to cope with the tragedy.

“It’s one of the hardest days of my life,″ said Kevin Garinger.

“There have been multiple fatalities ... our whole community is in shock, we are grieving and we will continue to grieve throughout this ordeal as we try to work toward supporting each other.”

Mr. Garinger, who has one of the players living in his home, said they still don’t know his fate.

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Humboldt mayor Rob Muench, in the Broncos jersey, along with other mourners lay down flower on the stairs that enter to Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Humboldt Broncos, in Humboldt, Sask., on Saturday, April 7, 2018.

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

”We don’t know who has passed and we don’t expect to know right away,″ he said.

Michelle Straschnitzki, who lives in Airdrie, said her 18-year old son Ryan has been taken to hospital in Saskatoon.

”We talked to him, but he said he couldn’t feel his lower extremities so I don’t know what’s going on,” she said, noting she will go to Saskatchewan on Saturday.

”I am freaking out. I am so sad for all of the teammates and I am losing my mind.”

The team includes Parker Tobin, an 18-year-old goalie whose hometown is listed at Stony Plain, Alta.

A Twitter user named Rhonda Clarke Tobin posted on Friday night: “This is one of the hardest posts I have ever had to make. Parker is stable at the moment and being airlifted to Saskatoon hospital. Thank you all for your kind words and messages. Please continue to pray for his Humboldt family.”

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Her previous posts include pictures and retweets about hockey, including a March 27 retweet of an article from the Humboldt Broncos website noting that Parker Tobin had been named Saskatchewan Junior

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who was one of the players on a bus with the Swift Current Broncos that crashed in 1986, killing four players, also sent a message of support.

“Sending all my thoughts and prayers to those impacted with the Humbolt Broncos bus crash.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted his condolences on Twitter, noting: “I cannot imagine what these parents are going through and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy.”

Later on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump added his condolences.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said what he has been told about the collision is difficult to comprehend.

“To the City of Humboldt, the entire Broncos organization, and the families impacted by this tragedy, please know you are in Saskatchewan’s hearts,” Moe said in a statement.

With files from The Canadian Press

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