Penticton Vees goaltender Michael Garteig reaches out to make a save on a Humboldt Broncos player in 2012. Humboldt hosted the 2012 RBC Cup national championship which the Vees won that year. Western News file photo

Penticton Vees mourning friends killed in Humboldt bus crash

The Penticton Vees won the national hockey title in 2012 in the host community of Humboldt

Penticton Vees head coach Fred Harbinson said players on his team are in mourning for friends that were killed in a bus crash carrying a junior hockey team from Saskatchewan.

“We reached out to all our players and at least three of them have lost friends in this horrible, tragic situation. This is tough. Anytime anyone loses someone whether that is a friend or family member, it is tough. As a head coach, with kids of his own, it just shows you how one second can change your life. We talked to the players today and you know it’s kind of embarrassing how much stock we sometimes put in wins and losses because something like this knocks reality back into you and reminds you what really matters,” said Harbinson, who is also the general manager and president of the Vees.

Related: Former BCHL player one of the 15 dead in Broncos bus crash

The Humboldt Broncos were heading to a playoff game in Nipawin when it was T-boned by a tractor trailer on Friday night. RCMP confirmed 15 people have died and that another 15 were taken to hospital.

Related: RCMP say cause of fatal Humboldt Broncos bus crash still unknown

Harbinson said he had spoken on the phone to the coach of the Broncos, Darcy Haugan, who is one of the 15 who died, many times.

“The hockey community is all connected. I have talked to, as GM’s and coaches often do, to coach Darcy many times over the past few years. He was a fabulous guy.”

The Vees won the national title in 2012 in the host community of Humboldt, a town of roughly 5,600 people located about 100 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

“It is a great community with great people. As a parent and a coach I am at a loss for words. I can’t imagine what they are going through. It is going to change that city forever,” said Harbinson.

Related: Donations reach over $1 million for families after Humboldt Broncos bus crash

From coast-to-coast people having been sharing their thoughts for those affected and the community of Humboldt itself. Harbinson said the Vees management group donated money to the GoFundMe account set up by a resident of Humboldt to help families with any expenses. The Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks are showing their support in Saturday night’s NHL game by wearing the word “Broncos” on the back of their jerseys in place of their individual names. As well, proceeds from the 50/50 draw from the game will be donated to the Broncos and both hockey clubs have already donated $25,000 to the pot.

“This really hits home. We are on a bus day-after-day during the course of a season. We drive at night and in tough conditions sometimes. There are often a lot great memories when hockey players look back on their careers that are built on those buses as guys create lifelong bonds,” said Harbinson. “For coaches and players across the country, across North America, everyday we get on those buses. Thinking of what those families are going through now just tears you apart.”

The Vees coach said the next time he steps on a bus for a team trip, those affected by the tragedy will be in his thoughts.

“No question. I think it changes everything. I remember when I was a bantam when the crash that killed people on the Swift Current team happened and it is always something that has stuck in my head. Even one time playing in junior hockey I had a really bad scare driving in bad conditions in Alberta and I remember that night like it was yesterday,” he said. “This is something that really hits home for everyone.”

Related: B.C. survivor of Swift Current Broncos 1986 crash reflects on Humboldt tragedy

Players and members of the Penticton Vees organization have been sharing their thoughts on social media:


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