Donations and messages of support have been pouring in from members of the hockey community after a tragedy that took the lives of 15 people aboard the Humboldt Broncos’ bus on Friday.
People in the Alberni Valley are adding their voices from two provinces away.
Members of the Alberni Valley Minor Hockey Association gathered outside of the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Sunday afternoon to show their support for the families of the Humboldt Broncos. Players took turns signing a giant poster, and the association made a donation of approximately $1,000.
“We just wanted to show our support to the Humboldt Broncos,” said organizer Lindsay Hodgson, whose husband coaches the Alberni Valley Pee Wee Stingers.
Hodgson agreed that the impact of the tragedy has been felt across the country.
“I have a son in his last year of midget hockey,” she said. “The hockey family is very tight-knit.”
The Chapel of Memories Funeral Directors in Port Alberni have also paid for the services of a grief resource helpline for those affected by the crash. The helpline will be free for an entire month and can be accessed 24 hours a day. The professionals that staff the phone lines are specialists in grief counselling and dealing with grief trauma. The care line, which is confidential and free, can be accessed at 1-800-854-8080.
“As a fan of the Bulldogs and a past Billet Mom, I understand how much these boys and men affect all of our lives and how far reaching their presence is felt,” said Margaret Vatamaniuck, manager at Chapel of Memories.
Members of the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs will also be holding a vigil on Thursday, April 12 to show support.
The Bulldogs were hosting one of three spring identification camps at the time of the tragedy, drawing more than 120 Junior A prospects and their families to the Alberni Valley. Director of business operations Tali Campbell said the impact has been felt throughout the camp.
“The mood here has been different than the past few years,” he said. “These players are trying to get back into the hockey mindset, but there hasn’t been a moment that we’re not thinking about the tragedy that happened to the Humboldt community.”
The accident hit close to home, he said, because junior hockey players practically live on a bus.
“Every time they step onto a bus now, it’s going to be a little harder, knowing what happened,” he said.
The Bulldogs are inviting the community to a vigil that will take place at 6:30 p.m. on the Weyerhaeuser side of the Alberni Valley Multiplex. Two rink boards will be set up with the names of the 15 deceased, and a brief video presentation will be made.
Campbell is encouraging the community to bring flowers or donations. The Bulldogs organization will be making a donation to the community of Humboldt.
Campbell said when he first started organizing the vigil, he was imagining a small gathering in the lobby of the Multiplex. But the word got out on social media, and now he expects the number of supporters to be 200-plus.
“It’s no shock here in the community of Port Alberni that everyone wants to show their support,” he said. “Everyone knows that small-town feeling.”