I spent this day watching my older daughter taking her college entrance exam and taking my younger daughter shopping; going for supper, laughing and making memories, things that you’re supposed to be doing with your kids. While we were busy making memories, every parent’s worst nightmare was taking place.
The unimaginable was happening in our sister province. The Humboldt Broncos hockey bus was involved in an accident, one that has taken sons from their Moms and Dads, siblings, girlfriends and friends. It has taken husbands from their wives, children and families. Our nation is in mourning, our hockey world in shock and grieving. A parent should never have to bury a child. It is unthinkable, unimaginable. Yet, today, it is horribly, sadly real.
I hestitated to write this post. This is not about me, it’s not about my feelings of helplessness, grief or shock. Yet, it is. It is about every single one of us who has heard and is saddened and wish they could do something, wish that we could turn back time and make this not happen, who imagine that the boys made it to their game safely and are just fine. We wish we never had to know their names, if only to keep them safe. It is about the absolute feeling of devastation we all feel for the parents who are not going to cheer their son on from the stands. I’m so thankful for my three kids, who right now are having breakfast and watching PVR’d hockey with their dad as I write this, and feeling sorrow for the Moms who aren’t going to have this normal ever again.
There is something about this world of hockey that grabs on, holds you tight and is takes over part of your world. I can illustrate the passage of time in my world in terms of the game; I was a child watching Gretzky, Messier and the boys on the bus own the NHL. I was a teenage girl living at the rink watching my classmates on the ice. I was a young woman, cheering on my boyfriend score goal after goal. I was a Mom, lacing up my little boy’s skates for the first time, my heart in my throat while I watched him step onto the ice using his stick for balance. I am a 16 year hockey Mom veteran, cheering my daughter and her team on to their final victory as they finish their minor hockey careers.
Hockey is an sport that grows, strengthens and nurtures a bond unlike any other. Teams become family, teammates become brothers or sisters. Parents and coaching staff become a part of that team too, working together to build something for their kids, cheering them to victory, commiserating and encouraging them after their losses. Teams grow together and become one solid unit. We tie skates, get up at ungodly hours for practice, walk in the door at midnight or later from practice, we travel for hours to get to games, sometimes on horrible roads and terrible conditions. We travel to tournaments, gathering all together in one tiny hotel room to enjoy our hockey family and typically act like crazy people. We scream, we stomp, we dance in the stands, we wave flags and shake noisemakers and cowbells. It’s all for the love of the game, and the love of our athletes. Hockey isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life. Our way of life.
I feel so helpless and wish there was something I could do, that all of us can do. There is, no matter how small, every gesture matters and we can all do it.
The only other thing I have to give are my words.
For the Mommy who is grieving her boy, my heart is aching for you. Every moment will be remembered, a small smile, a little hand in yours, that first time you tied his skates, the joy you had in his first goal or his first save. I am praying for you, I am full of sorrow for you, and I am never going to forget his name. For the Dad who has lost his buddy, I can’t imagine the hole in your heart, and know that loss is a physical ache. I pray for you, that those memories of his little feet touching the ice for the first time will carry you through. My prayers are for you, for strength, and for peace. For the Grandparents who are grieving and watching their children suffer loss, I am so very sorry. Your sorrow is not only for your loss, but for your children’s, which is a hard burden to carry.
For the Wives whose world has been turned upside down, all of my love to you. I’m sending you my heartfelt prayers for peace. For the friends who love those boys, keep them close in your heart, honour them and I promise you, you will never forget them, and there will come a day when you think of them and smile, not grieve.
For the boys who now have wings on their skates, I will remember you, I am praying for you, and will ever do so. I will think of you every time I walk into a rink. My prayer is that Our Heavenly Father brings peace to all who know you and love you, and that you are stepping onto the ice with your buddies in Heaven as I write this.
For the boys who are fighting to recover, I am so unbelievably sorry that you’ve had to suffer this. Know that you have prayers, loving thoughts and healing vibes coming to you from every hockey mom, dad, family member and every hockey athlete in our nation. I pray that the bond you have with your team helps to carry you through. I pray for complete physical healing for each of you, and that I’ll be praying every day for you as you come to grips with what you never should have had to endure.
For the families of the boys who are recovering, my prayer is for your strength as you gather together and support your son, as well as your hockey family. For the Billet families, your loss is so deep, and I grieve with you, for family doesn’t have to mean blood.
I’m little girl from a little hockey town, and my heart aches for you Humboldt.
I’m a Hockey Mom, part of a hockey family, part of the hockey world, so many of my memories are around this great game. May we all honour the game for Humboldt.