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‘People just relate’: Americans show support 7 months after Humboldt Broncos bus crash

At left, Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn takes part in a ceremonial puck drop with Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog, right, by two players from the Humboldt Broncos, Ryan Straschnitzki, second from left, and Jacob Wassermann, to open an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 24, in Denver.
At left, Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn takes part in a ceremonial puck drop with Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog, right, by two players from the Humboldt Broncos, Ryan Straschnitzki, second from left, and Jacob Wassermann, to open an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 24, in Denver. David Zalubowski / Associated Press

It’s been seven months since the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, and Americans are still closely following the aftermath of the tragedy.

The April 6 accident on a Saskatchewan highway claimed the lives of 16 people and injured 13 others when a semi-trailer truck crashed into a bus carrying the SJHL hockey team, which was on its way to a playoff game.

Survivor Ryan Straschnitzki recently dropped the puck at a Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey game. He and fellow survivor Jacob Wassermann were also invited to a University of Denver game and a Colorado Avalanche game, and the two are expected to be on the field at Sunday’s NFL battle between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Wassermann believes Canadians and Americans aren’t so different when it comes to their kids.

READ MORE: Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos players reunite on the ice

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“Anybody who has played sports growing up, you’ve ridden on a bus, and I mean lots of people just relate to that. It could very well have been anybody,” he said.

“Parents feel that about their own kids. People who have been on a bus with a sporting team feel that about themselves. I mean, you connect on more than just the hockey level through this. It’s bringing the world together.”

Survivors of the accident were invited to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas in May.

Tom Straschnitzki, Ryan’s father, had expected public interest to wane by now.

“We thought it would die down for a little bit there but it hasn’t,” he said.

READ MORE: Sask. college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos head coach who died in crash

Kirby Wassermann, Jacob’s father, is touched that there has been an outpouring of support from south of the border.

“You see how many people are aware of what happened and are following these boys and will recognize them and come and give them a pat on the back. We had someone come over to us at supper last night and called them heroes,” he said.

“Everybody wants to know the stories and the stories of how they’re carrying on, moving on and what they’re doing next. Even as a dad, it’s inspirational to me to watch what all these guys are doing.”

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Marty Richardson, who founded the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation, invited Straschnitzki and Wassermann down to Denver. He said what happened in Saskatchewan has “catapulted” past being something that impacts just hockey fans.

READ MORE: Humboldt Broncos crash victim’s jersey retired by former team Moose Jaw Generals

Dawg Nation helps adult hockey players and their families in times of crisis caused by catastrophic injury or illness.

“They’re young men but those are kids and it’s horrible, and anyone who has a child or a nephew or a niece can relate,” Richardson said.

“They see this incredibly tragic story and the heartbreak of all these families, and honestly, the whole entire community was crushed. How can you not feel for them?”

Richardson said the rise of social media has also made Americans more aware of what is happening outside their borders.

He said 76,000 football fans will be there when Straschnitzki and Wassermann are guests at Sunday’s football game.

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