'Learn to live with this': Humboldt focuses on future 5 years after bus crash
Kevin Garinger says it feels like the passage of time is inexplicable. The five years since a deadly bus crash changed his city, his hockey team and his life sometimes feel like a lifetime. Other times it feels like yesterday.
"I don't know if anyone ever heals from significant loss or tragedy," Garinger says after a moment of deep thought in his Humboldt, Sask., office.
"You eventually just learn to live with this."
Garinger was the president of the Humboldt Broncos when 16 people died and 13 were injured after a transport truck went through a stop sign and into the path of a bus carrying the Saskatchewan junior hockey team on April 6, 2018.
The CEO of the Horizon School Division, whose term at the helm of the hockey team has ended, was unexpectedly thrust into an international spotlight after the crash. So was his community and team.
Now, Garinger says, the intense focus has faded but the small Saskatchewan city east of Saskatoon is still figuring out how to exist within that legacy.
At first, he says, kids couldn't make sense of what happened and some were even afraid to get on buses. A few families moved away. As months turned to years, the grief seemed less immediate, Garinger says, less debilitating.
"You learn to live with a hole in your heart that never heals."
Humboldt is a hockey town.
The city has a population of just over 6,000, but the Broncos average 1,000 fans in the stands at the Elgar Petersen Arena each home game.
"Back in the day, when I was younger than I am now, you hung out at the rink," said Rob Muench, a city councillor who was mayor at the time of the crash.
"We grew up playing hockey and we grew up watching the hockey teams playing."
The Broncos were first established in 1970, and a team photo from the following year shows 20 players and four coaches wearing white and green jerseys. Each following year, most of the faces in the team photo change, as do haircuts and moustaches.
But each picture shows a group of young hockey players with big dreams.
The Humboldt Broncos' current roster of young players have no direct connection to the team from five years ago. The youngest players were in Grade 6 when it happened.
They are in the midst of an exciting playoff run after beating out the Nipawin Hawks in the first round. In the initial matchup against the Hawks -- a longtime Humboldt rival and the first team they played following the crash -- the Broncos quickly scored two goals and fans roared with applause. The Broncos won 5-1.
That same rink was a place of mourning five years ago as thousands of people came together and heard the team's chaplain struggle to describe "the valley of darkness" he saw at the crash site.
Now, the ice once again sees a group of young men full of dreams wearing green and gold jerseys.
"I think it's an honour for those kids to put on that Humboldt Broncos jersey," says head coach and general manager Scott Barney.
Barney joined the team as assistant coach in the year after the crash. Before coaching, he played 19 years of professional hockey, including 27 games in the National Hockey League.
"Anybody who has played junior hockey has been on buses before and I travelled millions of hours on there," Barney says.
They may not talk about the 2018 team every day, but there is evidence of it throughout the arena. There are 29 banners that represent each person on the bus and a memorial with the 2018 team photo behind glass. The numbers of all the players have also been retired.
"We play for them every day," Barney says.
The end goal for any team is to win the championship, Barney says, but it would mean even more this year. They have a good group, he says, a mix between younger and experienced players.
He adds Humboldt's support and strength over the last five years has allowed the team to return, to build and to grow.
"Without the community, we wouldn't be a team," he says.
Broncos players have changed many times in the years since the crash, so have the team's board members.
"The one connection from then until now is the fan base," Muench says.
At the recent game, the stands were a sea of Broncos shirts, hats and toques. These seats are where the memory of the tragedy is more pronounced, especially with season ticket holders who the team says have continued to come out in droves.
Carol Brons was sitting in the top row watching the team her 24-year-old daughter, Dayna Brons, loved so much. Dayna Brons was the team's athletic therapist when she was killed in the crash.
The team and the town are looking to focus on positive things that have been created after the catastrophe.
Green Shirt Day honours defenceman Logan Boulet and encourages organ donation. Northern Lights Movement for Kids was created by the family of Jacob Leicht to help bridge gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids. The Adam Herold Legacy Foundation helps Saskatchewan youth develop hockey and leadership skills. Many other funds were started to honour the players.
The crash also inspired the creation of Hockey Gives Blood, as well as numerous scholarships and bursaries.
An entire floor at the city's museum is dedicated to a rotating exhibit of the tens of thousands of items received from around the world after the crash.
More than 210 kilometres northeast of Humboldt on the side of a highway there are a cluster of crosses with the names of each person who died in the crash. The Humboldt Broncos Memorial Committee intends to create a permanent roadside memorial there.
Across from the crosses, at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335, is a new gigantic stop sign.
Back in Humboldt, Garinger's office is also still filled with Broncos memorabilia, but he finds it difficult to sit down and just enjoy a hockey game these days. Individuals will be at varying places, he says, but as time marches on, the community is moving forward.
"There's no real road map for how to deal with this."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2023.
Saskatoon Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Hundreds of American firefighters arrive in Canada to help battle wildfires
Hundreds of American firefighters have recently arrived in Canada to help battle wildfires and more are on the way, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Can face masks help protect you from wildfire smoke? Health expert explains
An official recommendation to wear a mask to protect yourself from wildfire smoke is being echoed by health experts as plumes of smoke make their way across parts of Canada, causing poor air quality.
Here's how major cities in Canada and the U.S. look blanketed by wildfire smoke
Photos show smoke-filled skies in cities across Canada and the U.S. as air quality warnings were issued in wake of the hundreds of wildfires from Quebec and Ontario.
'Very, very hard to breathe': Experts call wildfires a 'major public health concern' for Canada
As forest fires rage across the country, experts are sounding the alarm over the physical and psychological impacts of the wildfires and saying that they pose a serious public health issue, which individuals and governments need to acknowledge and act upon.
WATCH | Rate hike 'may be the last straw' for some homeowners: mortgage broker
With the latest hike bringing Canada's key interest rates to levels not seen since 2001, one mortgage broker is warning that it may be 'the last straw' for some homeowners with variable mortgages.
Canadians more likely to support foreign interference inquiry than hearings: Nanos
Canadians are twice as likely to support a formal inquiry into foreign interference, as opposed to public hearings, according to new polling from Nanos Research for CTV News.
opinion | Eight takeaways from Prince Harry's seven hours on the witness stand
It's been a busy, tumultuous few days for Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex as he took his place on the witness stand in his trial against the Mirror Group Newspapers. Here are royal commentator Afua Hagan's top takeaways from his two-day grilling.
Calgary mass killer Matthew de Grood seeks 'absolute discharge'
The man who was found not criminally responsible in the stabbing deaths of five people at a house party in Brentwood more than nine years ago is seeking more freedoms.
Trudeau shows no interest in compromising with Meta, Google over online news bill
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is showing no interest in compromising with Meta and Google over a Liberal bill that would make them pay for Canadian journalism that helps the companies generate revenue.
Future uncertain for residents of bulldozed Regina homeless camp
The dwellings of around a dozen Regina residents experiencing homelessness were bulldozed after calls from the property owner.
Less than 50% of Indigenous students graduate from provincial schools, report says
Indigenous graduation rates are sliding in the province, according to Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor.
Regina city council asks for debt limit increase
Regina city council has asked its administration to pursue permission from the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) to increase its debt limit to $780 million.
Trustee suspended over posts targeting LGBTQ2S+ community, division says
A Manitoba school trustee has been suspended over social media posts the division says targeted the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Continued closure of Fort Gibraltar causing changes for soon to be married couples
The closure of Fort Gibraltar following the collapse of an elevated walkway that sent 16 students and one teacher to hospital has left some couples scrambling to find a place to get married.
Crash with stolen vehicle sends two Winnipeg officers to hospital
A section of Main Street is closed on Wednesday morning following a car crash in the area.
Council reconsiders decision to reject recommendations on affordability crisis
Calgary city council has reconsidered its decision to vote against recommendations made by an expert panel to address the city’s housing affordability crisis.
Man on mobility scooter hit by truck in northeast Calgary intersection
Police say a man on a mobility scooter has life-altering injuries after he was struck by a vehicle in a northeast Calgary intersection on Wednesday evening.
Hot, dry weather comes with cautions and a few benefits
Calgary was under a heat warning Wednesday with forecast high of 29C.
Albertans asked to conserve electricity Wednesday evening due to hot temperatures
Hot temperatures across Alberta prompted a grid alert Wednesday afternoon.
'A long time coming': Edmonton Catholics commit $3.2M to Indigenous reconciliation fund
The Archdiocese of Edmonton will spend $3.2 million on reconciliation initiatives with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the Alberta capital region.
'Major travel delays': Anthony Henday Drive bridge will be closed this weekend
Drivers are being asked to find another way or prepare for delays on the Henday this weekend, because crews need to close a bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.
consumer, | Toronto woman 'horrified' after losing $95,000 to romance scam
Romance scams have always been around, but they got worse during the pandemic, and fraudsters continue to use social media and dating sites to find victims.
Number of Ontario forest fires doubled compared to same time last year
Ontario has already experienced double the number of forest fires this year compared to the same six months in 2022.
Alleged Toronto anti-cyclist road rage incident caught on camera
Toronto police are investigating an incident of alleged road rage against a cyclist that was caught on camera.
Special Air Quality Statement
Special Air Quality Statement | Wildfire smoke blankets Ottawa for a third day
Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement for Ottawa, with the air quality at 10+ "very high risk" Wednesday morning. Conditions improved in the afternoon.
Plug-in air purifier blamed for row house fire in Craig Henry area
The Ottawa Fire Service says a plug-in air purifier is to blame for a fire on Craig Henry Drive Tuesday.
Centennial Lake fire being held; evacuation order in place until Friday
The wildfire at Centennial Lake, 150 km west of Ottawa, is being held by firefighters, but an evacuation order remains in effect until Friday.
Out-of-control wildfire on Lower Mainland sees massive growth
A human-caused wildfire on the Lower Mainland has grown to an estimated 800 hectares and continues to burn out of control Wednesday, according to the BC Wildfire Service.
'You don't listen to renters': Vancouver Tenants Union disrupts housing announcement
Rental housing advocates interrupted an announcement by B.C.'s housing minister in Vancouver Wednesday morning to object to the provincial government's response to the affordability crisis.
Vancouver voice actors concerned about AI cloning voices without consent
Advances in artificial intelligence means software can generate accurate voice clones that sound just like the real thing, but that's putting some actors in a precarious position, including Vancouver's Bill Newton.
Ontario man charged with first-degree murder in killing of Claudia Iacono outside Montreal salon
An Ontario man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Claudia Iacono, the daughter-in-law of Mafia associate Moreno Gallo, after she was gunned down at the wheel of her car in Montreal last month.
Woman, 55, dies after vehicle strikes 2 pedestrians in Cote-des-Neiges; second pedestrian seriously injured
A pedestrian has died after she and a fellow pedestrian were both hit by a vehicle Wednesday afternoon in Montreal's Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood.
More evacuations in Quebec as record-breaking fires continue to burn
Quebec's wildfire season, which has forced thousands from their homes and left other communities on high alert, is the worst on record, officials said Wednesday,
Extended highway closure expected due to wildfire near Port Alberni
There's no end in sight for the closure of Highway 4 on Vancouver Island – the only highway leading to the communities of Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet – due to a wildfire burning in the area.
Busload of B.C. students stranded by wildfire spend the night inside Vancouver Island high school
A busload of high school students were finally heading home to Nanaimo on Wednesday after they were stranded by a raging wildfire that forced them to spend the night inside a Port Alberni high school.
Speed and alcohol likely factors in fatal Nanaimo crash
A 33-year-old man from Nanaimo is dead after a single-vehicle crash south of the city Tuesday.
'This is not helping': Frustrated evacuees say official communication lacking in wildfire recovery
Frustration is building among some people from neighbourhoods hardest-hit by the fires near Halifax. CTV's Heidi Petracek reports.
A 'whole list of hazards' are keeping residents near N.S. fire zones under evacuation: officials
It is still not safe for some evacuated residents whose houses were spared from wildfire damage to return home, officials from Halifax Regional Municipality and the District of Shelburne said.
Halifax support workers strike impacting students and families
The father of disabled teen from Fall River, N.S. is calling on all sides to get back to the bargaining table and put an end to the Halifax area CUPE educational support worker strike.
Wildfire west of Sudbury prompts evacuation order, total active fires in northern Ont. grows to 54
A northern Ontario forest fire that started west of Sudbury on Sunday morning has grown to more than 1,000 hectares and has prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for the immediate area as the number of active fires in the region grows.
Spreading wildfires prompt northeastern communities to evacuate
Communities affected by wildfires in the region are evacuating for safety reasons. The province says there is significant danger as several out-of-control wildfires affect air quality and physical safety.
‘Incompetent’ northern Ont. doctor loses his license to practise medicine
A northern Ontario doctor has been stripped of his medical licence for conduct described as “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”
VIDEO | 'Hate and discrimination have no place in any TVDSB schools': Investigation underway after pride flag torn down
Students at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ont. are being investigated after a video was posted online showing students tearing down a LGBTQ2S+ pride flag.
Special air quality statement remains in effect, rain possible over the weekend
As wildfire smoke blankets Ontario and eastern U.S., causing hazardous air quality and hazy skies, smoke in the Forest City is expected to remain until at least Thursday night.
City pitches new parking garage and extended free parking to aid downtown London, Ont.’s recovery
Since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Honk Mobile Parking App has offered two hours of free municipal parking in London’s core area business districts.