For the past few days I have been scrolling through my social media feed reading information about the horrific Humboldt tragedy that happened in Saskatchewan, Canada on Friday April 6th after a bus carrying a hockey team was hit on the way to their game. Every time I scrolled by a new tweet or police report, I found myself stopping and re-reading the names of the fifteen people who passed. The list remained the same as I read it time and time again, but I couldn’t draw myself away from it.
I couldn’t draw myself away from it.
Eleven of the individuals who passed were younger than me, most of them barely reaching twenty years. I didn’t know any of the people who died, nor had I ever heard of the small town of Humboldt. I am merely another young Canadian trying to make sense of the loss that a community is experiencing. Every time I close my eyes, I imagine it happening in my community and my heart simply can’t comprehend the pain of that possibility.
Growing up in a small town in South Ontario, hockey was a huge part of my life. I never played it, but so many people around me did. I watched the guys I grew up with make bonds that to this day can’t be broken. In fact, this past Easter weekend, most of them rallied together for a beer league tournament they put together every year. Talking to a few of them leading up to this tournament, I could see how happy the prospect of being out on the ice with their boys made them.
Despite never having played hockey, I’ve been playing team sports my entire life. I understand the way it makes you feel to be a part of something you feel passionate about and know that the people around you feel the same way. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. As a Canadian, one can’t help but feel as though hockey has this effect on not only individuals and teams, but on whole communities. This tragedy, has hit the hearts of an entire country who are mourning together over the loss of young passionate souls playing the game we all love.
I will never understand the loss experienced by the Humboldt community, nor can I write any words that could possibly take away the pain they are feeling. All I can say is that those boys had a community of people standing behind them every time their skates touched that ice. They had a family big enough to fill an arena. They had one another. The team had a sport that gave them a sense of purpose that some people go their entire life without.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t make sense of what happened. Tragedies such as this don’t have simple answers, no matter how badly we wish they did. They make us question who we are and how we want to live. They make us acutely aware of how small we are and how big and scary the world can be. Most of all, it makes us wonder why life can be so damn cruel.
Thinking of the individuals this community has lost is hard. At times it might feel easier to scroll past the news instead of seeing those names listed in front of us. However, that pain, the feeling in your chest when it tightens and your breath just seems to stop altogether, it’s important. It means that we are taking the time to acknowledge the loss. No player is going to step on the ice this week without feeling a little emptier, knowing that some young men will never have that opportunity again.
What is the most important following this great loss, is that each and every one of us takes the time to turn to the people around us and hug them. If you have the opportunity to play hockey this week, look around you as you step on the ice, take a deep breath and acknowledge your privilege. Life is short and scary, but for some of us it moves on, and we should honour this loss and the memory of these individuals with love and support for their families, for one another and for the game.