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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Humboldt Broncos were honored across the continent Saturday in the wake of Friday night's tragedy in Saskatchewan. Fifteen people, including several players and the head coach, were killed when the junior hockey team's bus was plowed into by a semi while en route to a playoff game.

Canadian media outlets are calling it one of the worst tragedies in the history of sports north of the border. There were moments of silence before all NHL games, including the Sabres' season finale against the Florida Panthers in BB&T Center.

"It's every parent's worst nightmare obviously and my heart goes out to those people in Humboldt," Sabres coach Phil Housley said during his pregame media briefing. "The familes, the community. ... It's one of those things where you're riding the bus, you're free of life and you just feel like you're protected. Something like this happens and it's totally unfortunate and it's devastating."

The Broncos' green and gold logo was projected on the arena's Jumbotron while the lights were faded to black for the moment of silence.

The Sabres joined many NHL teams and players in extending condolences. Tweeted the club from its official account: "We're heartbroken by the tragic events in Saskatchewan. Our thoughts and prayers are with @HumboldtBroncos and all affected by this terrible tragedy. Hockey is a family and we join the hockey world with our condolences. #prayforhumboldt."

Sabres defenseman Brendan Guhle played junior hockey in the Western Hockey League in Prince Albert, about 90 miles from Humboldt. He tweeted condolences late Friday night upon hearing the initial reports.

"It's pretty sad," Guhle said Saturday. "I played in that area for a long time. I didn't personally know anyone but I've played against a couple of those kids and it's sad that happened. You really feel for their families and friends."

The bus is part of the rite of passage in hockey. Long rides are commonplace in high school, college and junior leagues.

"We spent probably 10 hours a week at least on that thing in junior," Guhle said. "We spent a lot of time on there. We were fortunate to never have any issues. This is a freak accident and it doesn't happen often but this is devastating really."

Housley's son, Wilson, played from 2010-12 in Spooner, Wis., for a team in the Superior International Junior Hockey League and Housley said his son routinely had 11-hour rides to games.

"I know he had friends he played with who came from that area," Housley said. "That's part of coming together as a team. The more time you spend together, the closer you get. You would just never think these things happen and that's why it's so unfortunate because that is your sanctuary as a group. You're not aware of anything going on except what you're doing on the bus with your buddies."

Humboldt tributes were everywhere Saturday. Toronto coach Mike Babcock, a Saskatchewan native, was emotional following the morning skate in Air Canada Centre.

"I can't even imagine being a parent, or the wife, or the kids at home, going through something like this," Babcock said. "The hockey world is an unbelievable world ... you can't make up for loss, you just can't. It's going to rip the heart out of your chest. We pray for those families and think about them. I don't know what else to say. A horrific, horrific accident."

The Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets wore "Broncos" on their jersey nameplates and gathered together around the center ice circle in tribute for the national anthems in Bell MTS Place.

Said Edmonton star Connor McDavid: "Every single person. Everyone in hockey. That's exactly why it hits home, because everyone has been on the bus before. It's terrifying to see that happen. It's unthinkable."

Tweeted Nashville's P.K. Subban: "My heart is heavy for all those impacted by the terrible tragedy in Saskatchewan. My thoughts and prayers are with you all... tonight when we play the last game of the regular season, we are all on team Broncos!

Friday's 7-5 loss at Tampa Bay produced some wild numbers for the Sabres:

  • The first career goals by Casey Mittelstadt and Alexander Nylander made them the first Buffalo duo to pull that trick in the same game since Curtis Brown and Wayne Primeau vs. New Jersey on May 3, 1995.
  • The 12 combined goals were the most in a Sabres game in nearly five years, since Buffalo's 8-4 loss to the New York Rangers in KeyBank Center on April 19, 2013.
  • It was the first time all season the Sabres lost in regulation when leading after two periods. They were 16-0-5 in those situations. Friday's game was just the 22nd time in the first 81 games they were leading through two.
  • Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart were both minus-4 in the game. Nylander, Casey Nelson and Marco Scandella were minus-3. One Tampa line was a combined plus-14 with Alex Killon and Yanni Gourde both plus-5 and Anthony Cirelli checking in at plus-4.

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April 8, 2018
 
 
 

 

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