ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — With a NCAA college hockey championship on the line University of Minnesota-Duluth fans were feeling enthusiastic.
So as their Bulldogs arrived by motor coach at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday afternoon, players and staff were greeted with high fives and cheers.
But behind all the excitement, the hockey community is shrouded by a crushing somberness.
“The worst nightmare has happened,” explained the head of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Bill Chow.
The nightmare happened late Friday afternoon along a desolate highway south of Nipiwin, Saskatchewan.
That’s where a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos Junior A hockey club collided with semi-trailer truck. Of the 29 players, coaches and staff aboard, 15 people were killed and another 14 injured.
In NHL arenas across North America, fans rose for a moment of silence. Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock choked back tears when asked about the terrible loss of life.
“I can’t even imagine being the parent or the wife or the kids at home, going through something like this,” Babcock said.
As UMD and Notre Dame players took to the ice for the final game of the NCAA hockey season, fans rose for a moment of silence.
Bulldog assistant coach Jason Herter made several recruiting trips to Humboldt this season. He says it is a quiet farming community on the Canadian prairie.
“When you’re dealing with families and young men who aren’t going to be around anymore, it saddens me greatly,” Herter said.
Bus trips and road games are just part of the game whether in Canadian juniors or college hockey in the states.
“We were all shocked and horribly saddened,” explains Bulldog fan, Lynn Erickson.
But to players and fans the tragedy reminds everyone what really matters.
“You expect people to be safe on a bus, and something like this hits, it’s such a tragedy,” Clyde Erickson said.
It’s a tragedy that has shaken the hockey world and one that’s being grieved in rinks everywhere.
There is a GoFundMe account set up to help the victims and their families.