What is being called one of the biggest tragedies in Canadian sports history, has hit close to home with every member of the Estevan Bruins organization.
RCMP confirmed 15 deaths and 14 injuries after a semi collided with the Humboldt Broncos team bus on Friday evening near Tisdale, when they were on the way to play the Nipawin Hawks in game five of the SJHL semifinal. There were 29 people on the bus, including players, coaching staff and the play-by-by announcer, along with the bus driver.
April 6, 2018 is a day that will never be forgotten.
"It's sort of a state of disbelief and panic, details were sparse at the beginning and of course your hoping for the best," shared Estevan Bruins Head Coach and General Manager, Chris Lewgood. "As we got more and more details, you realize the gravity of the situation. It's really beyond any nightmares, it's one of the worst things you could ever imagine."
After Lewgood and the Bruins had received word in regards to Friday nights tragic accident, the organization has since met with the players and it's coaching staff to offer solace during a very difficult situation.
"We brought the guys in on Friday night for a meeting and we met again this morning(Saturday). The guys are okay but pretty shaken, lots of us had friends and former teammates and colleagues that didn't make it," Lewgood said. "It's a really tough time for everyone, obviously the guys are quite concerned for everyone who has been experience the loss."
Despite battling against each other on the ice all season long, what many don't know, is just how many friendships and relationships are built inside the hockey community throughout a lifetime of playing the sport.
"Darcy Haugan was a friend of mine," Lewgood said of the Broncos Head Coach and General Manager who lost his life in the collision. "We've known each other for 12 years and coached together at various camps and events. We both coached Junior 'B' many years and worked together with the Weyburn Red Wings leading up to our time in Junior 'A'. He was a good friend of mine and we spoke a lot about family and hockey and life, he's a good man and a good father. One of the things I think about the most is his young family at home and the sorrow they must be feeling today."
As of now, the Bruins organization has given the option to players on where they would like to be, while they deal with the loss of their friends on the Humboldt Broncos.
"Some of the guys have gone home to be with their families, others are going to stick around and be with their billets. We have lots of outlets for these guys to express their feelings and emotions, there's professional help available to the guys. There's no book on it, were encouraging the guys to speak and we'll certainly be meeting as a group as often as possible to make sure everyone has an outlet to express themselves."
"I've gotten hundreds of text messages, I've spoken to people in both Humboldt and Nipawin and passed our condolences and prayers."
132 Junior 'A' hockey teams in Canada load up the bus during the hockey season and spend countless hours creating lifelong bonds, sharing laughs and making memories for a lifetime. According to the Bruins Head Coach, it's not going to effect their time on the bus moving forward.
"We love our time on the bus, these guys make a lot of memories on the bus. That time spent is and always will be cherished by any one who's ever been part of a hockey team and ridden a bus. That's not going to change, this could have happened to any one, it's tragedy no matter what. It's time we don't take for granted, we enjoy it and it's important to us, it will be time that we continue to cherish."
In a media conference on Saturday afternoon, SJHL league President Bill Chow stated that the league will have conversations on what the Humboldt Broncos want to do and at the end of the day, they're going to do what they think is right.
"We're still waiting to hear from the SJHL with any information they have for us," said Lewgood. "As far as the hockey side goes and how we progress we haven't got their or spent any time on that yet. The priority is with the families and the people affected by it."
Lewgood also wanted to remind everyone about how big of an impact this has on so many different lives and to show respect towards the Broncos and the horrific situation that has taken place.
"It's just hard to understand, so we're praying for everyone who's effected by it and we ask the same of everyone in our community to respect the situation. It's probably hard for people to understand how our players are affected, they all have teammates and friends that were lost in this tragedy. We ask people to respect the privacy of our players and staff. A lot of people in our organization were personally affected. We all need to band together and honour those lost and pray for those who survived. Just cherish the time we shared together and the time we have moving forward," Lewgood concluded.