Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy reacts to Humboldt Broncos bus crash

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy says he can relate to the grief people are feeling after the crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that killed 15 people.

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy reacts to Humboldt Broncos bus crash

CALGARY — Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy says he can relate to the grief people are feeling after the crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that killed 15 people.

RCMP said the crash happened at around 5 p.m. Friday when a truck collided with a bus carrying the junior hockey team to a playoff game in northeastern Saskatchewan.

Kennedy said this situation made him think about the Swift Current Broncos crash in 1986 when four of his teammates were killed. 

His team's bus had hit a patch of ice and crashed while the hockey team was en route to Regina.

"Being in that sort of situation before, I just knew the state of shock and the confusion that comes along with this type of tragedy," said Kennedy in a phone interview from Calgary on Saturday. "My thoughts are with the families, and the billet families, and the first responders, and anyone involved in the immediate response, because it's just horrific and it's really hard to explain."

Patrick Marleau of the Toronto Maple Leafs was a boy in Saskatchewan when the crash happened involving the Swift Current Broncos.

"I remember a little bit of it," said Marleau, who was born in Aneroid, near Swift Current.

"It's something you remember when you're that young. You see the players wearing the logo on their jersey for the players that were lost. It definitely hits home. Growing up around Swift Current, it was always in people's mind. There's memorials. They're never forgotten."

Adam Lowry, a centre with the Winnipeg Jets, played junior hockey with the Swift Current Broncos and remembers how the bus crash has stayed with the community.

"Playing in Swift Current, even with the bus crash there 30 years ago, it still affects the community," said the 25-year-old native of Calgary.

"I think we were all aware of the tragedy that had happened in Swift Current. Every Swift Current minor hockey team, we would wear the clover with the four numbers on it. It's definitely something that hits close to home, I think. A lot of guys who played junior have spent countless hours on the bus. To see something like this happen it's really tough to see."

Police say there were 29 people including the driver on board the Humboldt Broncos bus, and those who weren't killed in the collision were in hospital.

Kennedy said it's important for everyone involved — including those injured, first responders, and the families of the victims — to talk through their feelings about the tragedy.

"I think one thing that we underestimate with the impact of trauma, and PTSD, and going through things like this, is the magnitude of the impact," he says. "That is what I can't stress enough."

Humboldt Broncos manager Kevin Garinger said the Broncos are a close-knit team from the small city of about 6,000 people, 110 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

Kennedy said the collective trauma is far-reaching and residual.

"The biggest thing is, we just gotta support that community right now because they're going to be needing it."

— By Alex Cooke in Halifax

The Canadian Press