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Community support for Humboldt victims “unbelievable”

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In the wake of the tragedy which struck the Humboldt Broncos Junior A hockey team just two weeks ago today, The Pas, OCN and surrounding area rallied together, just like so many communities across the nation and around the world to honor the victims and show their support for a team and a community which will be taking a long time to heal.
Local efforts included a vigil held two days after the accident in which the Gordon Lathlin Memorial Centre was packed to the rafters with supporters who came out to pay tribute to the now 16 victims of the accident which occurred at a busy intersection in the middle of rural Saskatchewan just a few hours’ drive from The Pas. Following that, people came forward to pledge support, including donations to a GoFundMe page which has since drawn in over $11 million.
A worldwide tribute was also formed in which people left their hockey sticks out over night to give the deceased players sticks to play with. That tribute was later expanded to include a microphone for the team’s play-by-play announcer Tyler Bieber who was one of the sixteen victims.
That tribute was carried out locally as well, with sticks being left out across The Pas and OCN and for one player who would know the bus trips all too well, several sticks were put out.
Lantz Hiebert, a veteran of the OCN Blizzard who played three years with the OCN Blizzard including last season, set out over a dozen sticks along a driveway with two sticks crossed over one another. Hiebert also played one game for the Notre Dame Hounds in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, the same league the Humboldt Broncos were a part of, in 2015-2016 before returning home to The Pas to begin his time with the Blizzard.
“I was shocked like mostly everybody was that that happened and the severity of the accident. Playing junior hockey for three years and countless hours on the bus it really hit home how fast an accident like that can happen and how your life could change forever by one simple mistake or mishap,” said Hiebert, who placed his collection of sticks out in tribute to the fallen Broncos last Tuesday. “I’m just really thankful for our bus driver Dan Moore who got the Blizzard boys home safe countless times from road trips we’ve held, coming from Winkler and Winnipeg, driving all night sometimes in some terrible road conditions we have here in Manitoba.”
Considering he went through many bus trips in all sorts of weather and road conditions, many late at night, the idea of an accident wasn’t foreign to Hiebert but the severity of the accident the Broncos went through was.
“It never really crosses your mind of how severe an accident can happen,” recalled Hiebert. “Sometimes I thought ‘oh what would happen if we maybe went in the ditch’ but nothing compared to that, that is just beyond words.”
The accident was also personal for Hiebert as he knew three of the players in the accident, forwards Nick Shumlanski and Kaleb Dahlgren and defenseman Bryce Fiske. Hiebert was a linemate of Shumlanski during an Aboriginal Hockey Championships tournament in Halifax a few years ago and played against Fiske during his time in the SJHL, saying ““I had a few pretty good battles against him but at the end of the day he was a pretty good guy on the ice.”
For Dahlgren though, Hiebert was at one point a roommate with him as they both played for the Notre Dame Hounds. Hiebert noted at one point “We were pretty close there for a while.”
Hiebert said he reached out to both Shumlanski and Dahlgren after the accident, sending them his thoughts and prayers.
Much of the hockey world did as well, and it was that outpouring of support that Hiebert appreciated seeing.
“It’s just amazing. The Pas and OCN, they’re a big hockey town and love hockey and watching hockey and the support the Humboldt Broncos got from there is next to no one. As you can see, the hockey world really pulls together when tragedy happens; they say the hockey world is a small world, even the NHL teams are rooting for the Humboldt Broncos,” said Hiebert. “It’s pretty humbling and great to see all the support they’re getting from across the nation.”
One source of support that was obvious to see was the #HumboldtStrong t-shirts which were visible across The Pas and area. Made at Paper Works Plus, the shirts were designed as a simple fundraiser that went beyond anyone’s imagination.
“It just started out as a project. We wanted to do something,” said owner Connie Chartrand.
When the staff gathered on the Monday morning following the tragedy, they knew they wanted to do something and eventually the idea was brought forward about a t-shirt campaign with money raised going to the Humboldt Broncos.
“We can do 50; 100 shirts, that’d be worth a couple of thousand dollars,” recalled Chartrand on what the thoughts were at the time. “By dinnertime (Monday) we were out of shirts.”
In total over 600 shirts were sold, generating $13,500. A few hockey teams also had helmet stickers made and a few other individuals wanted hoodies instead. Those shirts mostly stayed local but went all over Manitoba to places like Thompson and Dauphin, as well as across Canada, with locations in BC, Quebec and Ontario also ordering the shirts.
“It was just everybody got on board with it. Like everybody, businesses, everybody,” said Chartrand, who added that when the sales got brisk the Rotary Club of The Pas stepped forward and gave Paper Works Plus over 100 shirts to use. “Honestly, we never expected this.”
“We live in an unbelievable community, we really do,” added Chartrand.

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Trent Allen
EDITOR
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