Humboldt crash hits close to home for Austin Bruins

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2018

When the Humboldt Broncos, a team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in Canada, had their bus crash en route to a playoff game last week, the impact were devastating. When the news broke, it hit home with every member of the Austin Bruins.

The crash, which has claimed 16 lives as of Wednesday evening, shocked the entire Bruins team, including Travis Kothenbeutel, Austin’s all-time leading scorer.

“It puts a sad feeling in your body,” Kothenbeutel said. “You think of every bus trip you take and that could’ve been you or someone in your family or friends that you know from playing hockey. Prayers go out to the families there. It’s just sadness.”

Email newsletter signup

Austin head coach Steve Howard has been around junior hockey for much of his career and he’s well aware of the dangers that come with taking long trips on the road throughout the year in what can sometimes be less than ideal conditions on winter roads. Howard said the news in Humboldt grabbed his attention immediately.

“That’s a scary thing. I think we’re all still in shock in the hockey world,” Howard said. “It’s a tragedy and it’s one of those things that takes your breath away. It’s honestly my worst nightmare. I get on that bus all of the time and I think about things like that and I shouldn’t [think like that], but you never know. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everybody in the Humboldt and Saskatchewan hockey community.”

While the tragedy of the crash was real, the hockey community has united behind Humboldt. As of Wednesday, a page for the team had raised nearly $8.9 million dollars.

Howard said that’s just the way people support each other in the hockey community.

“All of the other sports are good, but I don’t think there’s a better community than what hockey has when it comes to helping people out,” Howard said. “For them to raise that much money for a junior team shows that all of the NHLers care.”

Junior hockey players build up a unique bond throughout the season as many players leave their families and hometowns to play hockey. Austin goalie Alex Schilling said he’ll always treasure the memories he has on the road with the Bruins.

“Your guys are the only people you hang out with for the seven or eight months during the season, especially on those long bus trips to Minot or Bismarck,” Schilling said. “That’s ten hours with them and it can be fun.”