#HumboldtStrong has been a rallying symbol in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, but lately, it’s been a point of contention.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) applied to trademark #HumboldtStrong along with eight other phrases that emerged in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“Upon researching and seeing that nobody had applied, we just thought it was in the best interest of all concerned that somebody within the league apply,” SJHL president Bill Chow said in a phone interview with Global News.
According to Chow, the SJHL felt the trademark was a natural step for them to take because the league already controls the proprietary and broadcast rights for each of the teams.
“My thought process was that if anybody was going to control it, it would either be the league,” Chow said, “then allow Humboldt to do whatever they wish to do with it.”
#HumboldtStrong quickly spread on social media to show grief and support following the crash on April 6 that killed 16 people involved with the Broncos organization.
On April 20, the league applied for the trademark. In a statement to Global News, the Broncos said they have been aware of the applications and were hoping to collaborate with the SJHL to resolve the issue, but the league has refused to revoke the trademark applications.
“The Humboldt Broncos’ focus and priority remains, as it has from the very beginning, on supporting the families impacted by the tragic events of April 6, 2018,” Broncos president Kevin Garinger said in a press release.
“That means, in part, working with our families directly, as we have been from the beginning, to together protect the ‘Humboldt Strong’ legacy that has emerged in the wake of the loss of our loved ones, and for those whose lives have been changed forever.”
Chow said the trademark is the league’s proactive approach to handle the influx of Humboldt Strong apparel being sold following the crash.
“The Humboldt Broncos have been keenly aware of the overwhelming demand for Broncos merchandise since the early days of this tragedy,” the Broncos said in a statement. “Capitalizing on merchandising was not a priority, nor is it now.”
While it’s unclear what the league plans to do with the trademark pending its approval, the SJHL partnered with a Regina-based clothing company three days after the crash to sell #HumboldtStrong shirts.
According to the SJHL, all proceeds from the T-shirt sales are going to the SJHL assistance program, which would provide mental-health supports to players in the league. The Broncos said they don’t endorse the league’s fundraising.
“Any suggestion that the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s fundraising efforts are supporting or endorsed by the Humboldt Broncos is misinformed,” the Broncos said in a statement. “To-date, the SJHL has not directed any of the funds they have raised, whether through direct solicitation or merchandise sales, to the Humboldt Broncos organization.”
Chow said he is optimistic that the situation will end positively for both sides, and that a mutually agreed-upon solution that would benefit the Broncos organization is possible. Chow added that both sides haven’t had time to talk, but meetings between the league and the Broncos organization are scheduled in the coming days.
A Broncos spokesperson told Global News that as of Monday, the organization had not received any formal invitation to meet.