16 Hockey sticks standing upright in the concourse in tribute to Humboldt

Standing, as a country, with Humboldt

By Geoffrey Lenahan, Douglas Facilities and Ancillary Services

I write this with the understanding that it will likely be lost in the sea of responses, but I write anyway. Perhaps for my own form of therapy. I write to help me express my feelings. If one other person reads this and can gain any comfort, then that’s a bonus.

This past week, people across the world have been shaken in the aftermath of the accident involving the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. When I first heard word, I was deeply saddened, but I moved on. The world is exposed to countless tragedies every day. Why should I let this one affect me any more than others?

But in the days following, as I went through my social media feeds and the news kept building, the casualties started to get names, the support started growing across the country and then internationally, it stuck in my mind more. Why was this getting to people at this level?

Was it because it was a bus full of teenagers and their coaches, kids and their mentors and leaders? Tragedy involving youth is always especially difficult to deal with. Young people represent the future. Adults remember their care-free days, parents think of their kids and the innocence of youth. This is usually the largest emotional draw with an event like this, but there are other layers.

Was it because it was hockey, Canada’s favourite activity and a point of pride for many? This is definitely a unifying topic across this country. Seemingly everyone in this country has a hockey memory.

The third thing to me is the bus trip. If you played sport past 12 years old at least, you had a road trip. And if not sport, it could be a music recital, an academic challenge or a plethora of things kids are awesome at that gets them on the road. But even if that is all absent, there is the simple road trip – be it camping, going to visit the grandparents or escaping the cold snow or rain for some sun and warmth. We all have some positive memories we associate with road trips.

For me, the pain and suffering of Humboldt finally got to me when I remembered my Douglas College basketball days. We had the exact same types of road trips, bussing to games upwards of 12 hours away, sometimes through the night. It was these trips that brought the team together. As a young shy adult, there was nowhere to hide on a bus. I became more confident in myself and became a better teammate (and eventually a better leader) in part because of these trips. I even met a girl in my last year on a team trip (the men’s and women’s teams traveled together); 12 years and four kids later we are still going strong!

One thing I will always remember is having the utmost confidence in our drivers. Because of this, we never wasted energy or thoughts to our safety. This is probably the single biggest factor to the enjoyment of a longer bus trip. Those on board just have to make sure they are on board before departure and they are confident they will arrive at their destination on time. The time on the bus is spent doing homework, sleeping or having ridiculous debates of “Who would you rather have” (Kobe vs MJ was the big one at the time). When I played rugby after college, we often collected a tip for the driver because they are all awesome (especially when putting up with a rugby team!).

My heart goes out to the players, coaches and families directly affected by this crash. I, like all others, cannot fathom the emotions. I also keep in my prayers the drivers, both bus and truck, for this will impact their profession undoubtedly. I know how seriously they take their work and any event like this will have a far-reaching impact.

So today, for Jersey Day, I am wearing a jersey, along with many students and coworkers at Douglas. We stand with others across Canada and the world. We all have been in a bus, we all know the joys of a road trip. We join together to support the mothers, fathers, siblings and coaches who may feel alone. You are not alone, we all stand here with you and we will be with you on the next bus.

Douglas employee Geoff Lenahan wearing a hockey jersey

Geoffrey Lenahan started at Douglas College as a student in 2003 and played on the Royals basketball team. He earned his Associate of Science degree and then switched over to the business program. In August 2008, he started working as a staff member in the Douglas College Athletics department. Geoff now works as a Project Coordinator in Facilities.

This article was originally posted on For the Love of the Game.

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