When news of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team’s tragedy reached Plattsburgh State hockey and baseball player Tom Bowe, he empathized with what those affected went through.
“Those long bus trips are a huge part of junior hockey,” Bowe said. “Everybody on the hockey team has done that for at least a couple years, so we know exactly what it’s like and how hard it would be if something like that happened [to us],”
The Broncos, a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team, were on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, April 6 when their team bus was broadsided by a semi-truck.
Of the 29 people on the bus, 16 people, including the bus driver, players, the team trainer, coaches, the statistic tracker and the game announcer, have now died. Several team members still remain in the hospital.
The news inspired Bowe to raise money for the families affected by selling T-shirts printed with “#HumboldtStrong” across the back in green writing, and the Humboldt Broncos and Plattsburgh Cardinals team logos on the front with PSUC’s traditional red swapped out for Humboldt’s green.
Bowe included the Cardinal logo as a hope to draw members of PSUC community toward the “#HumboldtStrong” movement.
“I wanted to be able to spread the awareness throughout the community and give people an outlet for people to show their continual support of the team,” Bowe said.
Bowe sold the shirts from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Stafford Ice Arena Friday, selling 98 shirts at $10 apiece to raise $500 dollars once production costs were accounted for.
The money will be added to over $15 million dollars already raised by the Broncos’ now closed GoFundMe page.
Since the GoFundMe page closed, the Broncos have established the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund, Inc. non-profit organization to take further donations.
“Every little bit helps,” said Bob Emery, PSUC men’s hockey head coach. “We’ll be a small part of it, but if everybody has the same idea to be a small part of it, it would grow even more.”
The news of the accident spread quickly throughout the hockey community. When Emery heard about it he said he was shocked, but not surprised.
“I’ve been on buses in the wee hours of the morning when the driver was struggling to stay awake, and I’ve been on buses in the wee hours of the morning in the snow, so it’s always in the back of my mind,” Emery said. “The Humboldt tragedy happened at five o’clock on a Friday afternoon with no snow, so accidents can happen in anytime no matter what the weather, no matter what the circumstances are.”
Since then, there has not only been widespread monetary support, but also social media support with the “#SticksOutForHumboldt” and “#JerseysForHumboldt” movements getting international attention on Twitter and facebook.
PSUC’s men’s and women’s hockey teams took part in the “Wear jerseys for Humboldt day” inspired by the hashtag on April 12.
“It gives me chills,” Bowe said. “It’s crazy how connected everyone is throughout the hockey community, and how amazing it is.”
Emery was proud of Bowe being a part of this surge of support.
“People lost their lives and some people are paralyzed, but I think the hockey community really rose to the occasion in helping them out,” Emery said. “I give Tom Bowe a lot of credit, taking his own personal leadership to go out there and get the shirts made up to sell.”
Emery wasn’t surprised by how supportive the international hockey family has been in wake of the accident.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” Emery said. “I’ll tell you, there are a lot of people involved with other sports that are jealous of the hockey community when it does step up in times of need.”
More information on how to donate can be found online at humboldtstrong.info.
More than anything, Bowe emphasized that the fundraiser was about the Cards displaying solidarity with Humboldt, and spreading their story to PSUC.
“It’s us Cardinals standing with the Broncos, and showing we’re with them.”