A Nova Scotia cartoonist’s illustration capturing the country’s pain in the wake of the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team is being described online as powerful, poignant and heart-wrenching.
The cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon, an award-winning cartoonist with the Halifax Chronicle Herald, shows a hockey player dressed in the Broncos green and gold slumped over on his skates with the word “Sask” across his back. He is supported by 10 other players dressed in red with the provinces’ short forms on their jerseys.
MacKinnon posted the image on Twitter with the hashtags #HumboldtBroncos #BroncosStrong.
He told Global News that when reports of a crash involving a junior hockey team in Saskatchewan emerged he immediately thought of the 2008 incident in Bathurst, N.B., when a van crashed into a transport truck killing seven members of a high school basketball team and the wife of its coach.
“Immediately you’re sad, crushed, because it’s such a traumatic event and you think about the families who have lost their loved ones,” Mackinnon said. “The entire country is sort of going through this trauma all over again.”
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And while it’s hard to find any positives when so many young lives are lost, MacKinnon said, tragedies have a way of bringing people together.
“The one good thing, I guess, is that it does tend to unify a country,” he said. “Canadians come together — they want to do something, they want to feel like they can do something positive.”
The illustration has been shared widely on social media following the horrific crash last Friday in Saskatchewan when a bus carrying the Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-truck killing 16 people — including 10 players between the ages of 16 and 21 — and injured another 13 passengers.
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Interviews with those close to the young men killed or injured in the crash paint a picture of not only a town shattered by tragedy but also of families and communities forever changed by the crash.
Yet, inspiring and hopeful stories have begun to emerge as people across the country and around the world have sent their thoughts to the community. The hashtag #PutYourSticksOut, a crowdfunding campaign that’s surpassed $8 million, and increases in organ and blood donations, are just some of the ways Canadians are showing their support.
The family of Logan Boulet, a 21-year-old Broncos player killed in the crash, spoke with Global News about the inspiration he had on the country after it was revealed Boulet had recently signed an organ donation card and it’s expected his organs could save up to six people.
“It’s called the Logan Boulet effect. … We just found that out as we came home today,” his father Toby told Global News. “And to have it called the Logan Boulet effect on the increase of people registering for donor, organ donor, transplant donors … is … it makes your heart warm.”
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MacKinnon, like many across the country, says he grew up with the game of hockey and the Humboldt story hit close to home.
For MacKinnon, this is not the first time one of his cartoons has struck a chord with the nation.
In 2014, his illustration depicting bronze statues at the National War Memorial in Ottawa leaning down to comfort Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed while standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the attacks on Parliament Hill, received national and international attention.
“It’s nice to know you’re doing something right,” MacKinnon said referring to positive reception his work received. “I would rather have not had to do this cartoon, but if you can do it and have a positive effect it’s rewarding.”
“If you can mitigate the grief people are going through or somehow change the way they feel, it’s nice to have the power to do that.”
— With files from Ross Lord