On April 6, tragedy shook the hockey world when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team was struck by a truck at a rural Saskatchewan intersection. The crash killed 16 people, including 10 players. Another 13 people were injured.
On Friday, Chandler Stephenson, a native of Saskatchewan, will spend his day with the Stanley Cup in Humboldt.
It has been less than five months since that tragic day in April and the wound no doubt remains fresh for that community. That’s what makes Friday’s day with the Cup so special.
This goes beyond a feel-good moment. Friday will be an emotional day for that community, it will be a day for healing.
When I was three years old, my parents gave me the greatest gift I have ever been given. They took me to my first hockey game. The Capitals in their old red, white and blue uniforms took on the (old) Winnipeg Jets in Landover, Md. I loved every minute of it. On that day I discovered my passion in life. I have been obsessed with sports and especially hockey ever since. It’s why I do what I do.
Whatever it is in your life that brings you joy, whatever your passion is in life, imagine if that was tarnished by a tragedy like the one experienced by the Humboldt Broncos. Imagine if that thing that once brought you happiness now carried with it a reminder of pain, of sadness, of tragedy.
For those who follow me on Twitter or listen to the Capitals Faceoff Podcast, you will know that I recently became a father. My son was born in July 2017.
Obviously, my greatest fear in life is something happening to him. My second greatest fear? Him losing his joy in life.
Right now, at just 13 months old, he still finds joy in a game of peek-a-boo or just from playing with our dog.
One day, however, that won’t be enough anymore. I hope I am able to give him the same gift my parents gave me and introduce him to his joy in life, to something he is truly passionate about. It doesn’t have to be hockey or sports, it can be anything. Anything to keep that same twinkle in his eye and smile on his face that he has now.
You don’t need me to tell you that children dying in a bus crash is devastatingly tragic. One thing we don’t think too much about, however, is how life changes for the survivors.
Hockey is a way of life in Canada. Imagine being a young kid on a bus trip with all your friends getting ready to do the thing you love most in the world. And then the crash happened.
Can any of those survivors still think of hockey without being reminded of the physical and emotional pain of that April day? Can you imagine, as a parent, seeing the joy and passion your child once displayed for something extinguished by tragedy? That twinkle in their eye replaced by a dark cloud of painful memories?
That’s why Friday is so important.
All throughout the summer, we have seen the Stanley Cup travel around the world and at each stop, people line up for hours to see it and have their pictures taken with it. This is a trophy awarded in a North American sports league, but it still resonates with people across the world.
There’s power in the Stanley Cup.
That Cup has brought joy wherever it has gone this summer and, on Friday, it is going to a place that really needs that right now.
Friday is not a day to celebrate the Cup, it is not a day to celebrate the accomplishments of Stephenson or the Capitals. It’s a day for healing. If that April day forever robs those kids of one of the greatest joys in life, if they can never again pick up a stick or watch a game without the painful memories flooding their minds, they can never really recover and neither can their families.
Stephenson’s day with the Cup may not get the same type of fanfare as Alex Ovechkin’s, it may not have the same fireworks as Dmitry Orlov’s, but it will be the most impactful.
Friday is a day for that community, for those people affected by that April crash to smile again, to laugh again and to finally, finally find joy in hockey again.
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