- by Pat Hills
Hockey is imbued in our culture and common language in Canada. It is just a game, yes. But it's something more, isn't it? It transcends gender, age, ethnicity. It welcomes new Canadians - all values we ascribe to as a nation. It is a source of pride and identity. Every year at the AGM we celebrate this part of our heritage by lacing up our skates, throwing our sticks into the centre of the rink to choose sides - and we play. And when we play we are reminded of when it all started. Early morning practices when Dad first tied our skates, backyard rinks, shinny and all of the locker room laughter and comradery. It made us competitive. It taught us team work. It taught us to have each other's backs.
Then the unthinkable happens. A bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos collides with a semi at an intersection at Armley Corner in rural Saskatchewan and sixteen lives are lost. Ten players, two coaches, a play-by-play announcer, an intern, the bus driver and the trainer/therapist. It is inexplicable to us that this could happen while they were pursuing a passion that has a connection, at some level, to all of us.
Many have and will write more eloquently about the impact of this than I can. I can only speak as a kid from Bramalea, Ontario, who, when faced with the reality that midget rep was as far as the dream would go, would have to choose an alternate career path. The path that led me to all of you and yes, once a year, back to hockey. From playing with Jack Monteith at the Gardens in Toronto the year he turned 80 to playing with the young, fast, fit players who joined us this year, it is an event I know a lot of you look forward to. Wear your jerseys to remember those who died in Saskatchewan. Live in the moment and take care of each other. And next winter we will get on a bus together to play hockey.