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Hockey Serves as Distraction from Tragedy

Moose Jaw Warriors

(Marc Smith)  There was conversations about even playing the game, but both teams decided to push forward and did so with heavy hearts.

The Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos played the second game of their second round WHL Playoffs on Saturday night at Mosaic Place. The outcome of the game — Swift Current tying the series at 1-1 — seemed irrelevant throughout the night as the players, coaches, staff and fans of both teams had the Humboldt Broncos and the Saskatchewan community on their minds.

“It’s really devastating,” said Warriors captain Brett Howden after Saturday’s game. “It’s obviously what everyone is thinking about right now, but at the end of the day, we have to go out there and play a game and that’s what all those guys would have wanted us to do.”

Howden and Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin led their respective teams out onto the ice prior to the opening puck drop. They gathered around centre ice together for a moment of silence.

“That was a very emotional moment,” said Howden. “There’s no game plan for this, you don’t expect anything like this to happen, it’s a really tough time right now.”

Both teams were also sporting Humboldt Broncos decals on their helmets and the team’s logo was visible throughout the arena during the game. The decals are something that teams around the league will be sporting moving forward.

“It was definitely something that nobody has every went through before, there’s three guys on our team who lost best friends yesterday and for them to be out here playing with us today and they had games of their lives,” said Broncos defenceman Colby Sissons. “With us, with the name and the connection of our history and their sad history now, we’re playing for them.”

The management staff for both the Warriors and Broncos met with their players in the morning to discuss the tragedy. It definitely hits close to home due to WHL teams, like ones in the SJHL, all travel by bus for their games.

“It’s been a numbing day, it’s been very difficult because you can’t help but think about your own people, people that are near and dear to you, and our thoughts are with everyone in Humboldt,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar.

WHL Commissioner Ron Robison added, “The hockey community is so close, whether it’s a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team or a Western Hockey League team, it doesn’t really matter, everybody is pursuing what they enjoy doing and that’s playing hockey and playing in an environment like this requires travel, and extensive travel, especially in leagues like ours, and these are things that you hope would never happen.

“Many, many years ago I played for the Humboldt Broncos and I was fortunate enough to get a good sense of what that community was all about and it’s not unlike any other Saskatchewan centre, there’s nothing more important to those communities than their hockey team. It’s a very difficult time for the entire community,” said Robison.

The news of the bus crash came down just before the teams hit the ice for Friday’s series opening game. Saturday’s game served as an escape for three hours after a difficult 24 hours for everyone in the hockey world, across the province and around the country.

Millar said keeping a sense of normalcy was something that they felt was important after speaking with grief counsellors, “As long as the players were surrounded by the right people, had support, surrounded by friends that change wasn’t the right thing, normalcy was their recommendation,” he said.

“The nature of the game will be good for everybody, it will be good for the players and at the end of the day, the people in Humboldt and the players on that team would want the game to go on tonight.”

The Warriors collected donations throughout the game with over $14,000 raised that will be going to support the Humboldt Broncos and the community.

There’s no doubt that the Broncos will be on the minds of the players, coaches and staff of both teams moving forward on their playoff runs.

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