As the city of Humboldt continues to come to grips with the devastating bus crash that claimed 15 lives on Friday, support has been pouring in from the hockey community all over Canada, including two NHL coaches who once called the province of Saskatchewan home.
Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan and Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan were seen loading bags of gifts for the crash survivors into a van bound for the Saskatoon hospital where the Humbolt Broncos survivors were recovering on Sunday.
Fifteen people were killed and 14 others seriously injured when a semi-truck and the bus carrying the team collided near Tisdale at around 5 p.m. on Friday. RCMP said the cause of the crash is still unknown as of Saturday.
The victims include Broncos captain Logan Schatz along with nine other players, coaches Darcy Haugun and Mark Cross, the team’s statistician and radio play-by-play announcer and the driver of the bus.
Condolences and messages of support poured in since the crash on Friday night, including from NHL players and coaches.
Gulutzan, McLellan and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock all grew up in Saskatchewan and spoke on Saturday about their heartbreak for the communities.
“I said in Winnipeg that our season was painful and I would like to take that back,” Gulutzan said. “I’m from that area and I played in that league. I can’t imagine what moms and dads are going through and I saw a picture of the boys and… just young guys.
“I feel for the families, I feel for the moms and dads.”
The tragedy has also hit hard with McLellan, who said he both played and coached with junior teams in the Humboldt area.
“I can’t imagine what those families are feeling and what they’re going through right now. It just won’t be today,” he said. “It lasts a while. They need our support. They’re going to need it as soon as now. It’s going to have to last for a while.”
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, along with two other former teammates who were involved in a 1986 bus crash that killed four Swift Current Broncos players, also paid a visit to the players on Sunday in the hope of lifting spirits and bringing wisdom on moving forward.
“We’re here to help,” he said. “We’re just here to do whatever we can and our plan is to try to visit some players and to just try to bring some hope to this whole thing.”
“We know the impact. The impact of this type of trauma is real and we know more now today than we did 30 years ago about PTSD and mental health that comes with these types of events.”
With files from Rebecca Joseph and Kevin Neilsen