Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) commissioner Marty Savoy says the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus crash on Friday night that claimed the lives of 15 team members “hits extremely close to home” for players across the province.
“I was at a game last night with our two teams and I was looking at the benches and I was just thinking about the impact that it would have on our league and our families and our players and the teammates that they have,” Savoy told Global News on Sunday.
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“The great thing about this game is that you do get close to one another and it hits home, anything in the hockey world, but when it comes to junior As, that’s our brothers out in Saskatchewan, it’s something that deeply affects everybody that’s involved in the game.”
A semi-truck collided with the Bronco’s team bus as it was on its way to play a game against the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
The crash killed 15 people, including 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. Another 14 people were sent to hospital.
The OJHL and other junior hockey leagues across the country are providing grief counselling for their players.
“The one thing is that we have great people running the leagues, in Saskatchewan and across the country — we’re here for our players and our staff to make sure that we can help them get through this properly.”
Bus trips are an integral part of hockey life, especially at the junior level, and Savoy knows what happened Friday night will be on the minds of his players.
WATCH: Ontario Junior Hockey League holds minute of silence for Humboldt Broncos after fatal crash
“These are players that are the same age, they have the same dreams, the same aspirations and so when they’re on the bus and when they’re playing the game, they will be thinking about them,” he said.
“They know what they have to do to move forward but this is something that no one can really forget and put in the back of their mind, it will be at the forefront for a long, long time moving forward for all of us.”
READ MORE: Here are the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash
The league is observing a moment of silence before every game and players will have a sticker on their helmets in honour of the Broncos, but Savoy said the most important thing the OJHL can do is to be there to support its players, as well as everybody in Saskatchewan.
“The entire OJHL’s thoughts and prayers are not only with the Humboldt Broncos organization, family, friends but the entire Saskatchewan community, the SJHL, their commissioner,” he said.
“Our league will do anything possible to support our friends out west.”
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The RCMP said the cause of the crash is still under investigation.
A GoFundMe page set up for family members of the team had raised more than $3.5 million by Sunday afternoon.
A vigil run by community and clergy members to honour the Broncos and remember the victims will take place at 7 p.m. MT Sunday at the team’s home arena.
—With files from Rebecca Joseph