Hockey sticks placed outside a rink to mark the Humboldt tragedy. (Jennifer Feinberg/Black Press)

Sarah Simpson column: Community support comforting in darkest times

The hockey community took care of me

I have a scar just to the right of my left eye. It’s barely noticeable because of how well the gash in my head was stitched up. Years ago I took a hockey stick to the head when I was between the benches taking pictures of the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals as they hosted the Trail Smoke Eaters at The Stick here in Duncan.

I don’t remember whose stick it was but I do remember players from both teams looking down the tunnel to make sure I was OK. I was, just bleeding profusely down my face and onto my camera.

Before I knew it, I had been ushered into the Caps’ dressing room and onto their training table and was being stitched up by the team doctor as players filed in for the intermission.

There was no, “Oh that looks bad, you better get to the hospital.” It was just go-time. I had a problem and the team fixed it right then and there. The hockey community took care of me and I was, at best, just a peripheral member of that group.

Much has already been said about the gut-wrenching tragedy of the bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos last Friday. I won’t repeat the details. But here I am as a mother, grieving with these parents who lost their boys, and as a writer, wondering how I could possibly find light in this darkness that collective communities across the country have been plunged into.

So, I reached out to somebody from my old sporting days who knows the hockey community well. I called on the best female hockey player to have ever played, Hayley Wickenheiser.

The five-time Olympic medalist and Saskatchewan product was quick to respond both to my call and to the call for action after a GoFundMe campaign was set up for the Humboldt Broncos families.

Her backing helped the crowdfunding campaign become one of the most supported in the website’s history with more than $7.5 million having been contributed by more than 94,000 donors in just three days.

“It’s amazing to see how far that’s come. The two hockey moms who started it, I think thought [they’d raise] about a few thousand dollars and now we’re over $7 million,” Wickenheiser said. “It’s heartwarming. It’s a way for people to feel like they can help when they’re so far away and feel helpless.”

Signing up to be an organ donor, giving blood and being present for your own family are also important in times like these, she said.

Wickenheiser wasn’t at all surprised by the outpouring of support from across the country.

“Hockey is the ultimate team sport and it really shows just how close-knit people are,” she said. “Every team is a family but then there’s the big hockey family so when things happen people really rally together. Hockey is our identity as a nation but also these were our boys and we could all put ourselves in the shoes of these parents and families and what they’re going through.”

So, the bright side? I’m still not sure there is one. But it’s comforting to know that sometimes in the darkness, the collective support of an entire community (and country) can help light the way.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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