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Connection to fatal Canadian bus crash rattles Gulls

Discussion in 'Hockey' started by RaiderRay, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. RaiderRay

    RaiderRay RIP SD Chargers..Go Raiders, Go Irish Staff Member Administrator Podcaster

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    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com...ler/sd-sp-miller-buscrash-20180411-story.html

    Hockey’s huge, rugged heart ached from Saskatchewan to San Diego at the unimaginable loss suffered Friday by the tiny, tight-knit Canadian farm community of Humboldt.

    One minute, a bus loaded with talented boys motored toward a playoff game — a ritual repeated endlessly across puck-chasing generations. In a devastating blink, a collision with a semi-trailer caused 10 of those bright lights and five others to flicker for the final time.

    So much limitless, youthful potential, snuffed.

    Hockey isn’t like most sports. When you hear it called a unique community, it’s an undeniable truth. Hockey fights together. It laughs together. It cries together. It builds life-long bonds through all those rides on all those buses.

    “You just swallow your heart,” said Gulls left wing Mike Liambas, who grew up in Woodbridge, Ontario. “Every single hockey player has spent hundreds of hours on a bus.”

    A social media campaign sparked the idea of propping sticks in front of homes across Canada and deep into the hockey-loving corners of the U.S. The Twitter page for America’s “Miracle on Ice” team soon followed suit, as did the Hockey Hall of Fame. Penguins star Sidney Crosby penned personal notes to each survivor.

    A GoFundMe page had raised more than $6 million as of Tuesday evening, making it one of the top five most successful campaigns in the history of the platform, according to CNN. Photos showed the Ukrainian national team leaving flowers at its Canadian embassy. CBC Radio reported organ donations spiked more than 500 percent since the accident.

    Yes, hockey players check opponents into the boards without regard for dental insurance. Yes, they toss gloves and start swinging. Hockey shares an unstated understanding, though.

    When the clock’s running, it’s us and them. When the clock stops, there’s only us … guys who embrace those long drives, often into the dark and icy night, to pursue another win in another town.

    “It’s not a bus,” Gulls coach Dallas Eakins said Tuesday. “It’s like your house. It’s like your church. It’s a place of safety and camaraderie. I basically equate it to both sides of your parents’ families, all the kids, the cousins, you come to your house, you’re having a great day and a plane crashes into your house.

    “That’s what this is. It’s just a terrible, terrible week — and this won’t stop.”

    The depth of sadness included a personal connection for the Gulls, who hosted Humboldt assistant coach Chris Beaudry earlier this year because of a home-grown coaching program called Pass the Puck.

    Eakins created it to give back to the sport that has provided so much to him. Coaches visit and work with the Gulls. Beaudry spent a week with the team at the start of the year.

    The young coach in his 30s cares so much for Humboldt that he drives more than an hour each way to attend practices. On the night of the accident, Beaudry chose to travel separately, arriving on the scene about 20 minutes later.

    On any other night …

    Something on Twitter caught the eye of Gulls assistant Brett Ferguson, moments before the team took the ice against the Ontario Reign. Eakins frantically tried to reach Beaudry.

    “All he said in the text was, ‘This is really, really bad,’ ” Eakins said. “It wasn’t until after the game we realized how horrific, gut-wrenching, I can’t even put words to it. The amount of pain they’re going through is unimaginable.”

    Eakins has remained in contact with Beaudry daily. The crash that crushed the town of less than 6,000 in a remote area between Edmonton and Winnipeg claimed the team’s head coach, along with the other members of the core staff.

    “It’s unbelievable,” Eakins said. “He’s had the task of identifying bodies. He’s had to call parents. He is serving others in an amazing capacity, in a way I’d never wish on anyone.”

    Player after player shared stories of frightening near-misses on bus trips. Gulls goaltender Leland Irving recalled fish-tailing on a slick mountain pass in British Columbia while playing for the Everett Silvertips. Center Sam Carrick watched a car plow into a telephone pole after narrowing missing the team bus he rode on in Hershey, Pa.

    Veteran defenseman Jeff Schultz detailed an unforgettable trip from Prince George.

    “We hit a moose on the highway,” Schultz said. “We hit it where the door is. Almost the whole team had to go out there, to drag the moose off to the side so someone else wouldn’t run into it.

    “It bent the frame of the bus, so we had to use bungee cords to secure the door so it wouldn’t fly open while we were driving.”

    Eakins fought his emotions as he considered it all.

    “If we take anything good out of this, it’s a great reminder that hey, you know what today should be? This should be a damn (expletive) good day,” he said. “Because you never, ever know when it’s going to be your last.

    “I go in (his office) and it’s on CNN or Fox News with all the BS going on. Hey, you know what? Make today a good one.”

    Hockey understands that, sadly more than ever.

    Frightening near-miss for Aztecs
    Friday’s crash caused Gulls radio voice Craig Elsten to recall a chilling bus trip with the San Diego State baseball team in 2009.

    The Aztecs wrapped up a series with TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, before climbing aboard a pre-dawn ride to the airport.

    Elsten was doing radio for the team led by coach Tony Gwynn that included future MLB All-Star Stephen Strasburg. Elsten drifted off, along with most of the others on the bus.

    “I hear Tony yell, first ‘hey,’ then ‘hey!’, then ‘HEY!’,” Elsten said Tuesday after the Gulls practice in Poway. “We were halfway down an off-ramp, headed toward a T with a wall on the other side. The guy wakes up and slams his brakes. We went into a full skid and went about a third of the way into the intersection.”

    Elsten shuddered at what might have been.

    “Thank God Tony was awake,” he said. “Tony was sitting front-right, because the coach always sits front-right. If he isn’t awake, we face-plant straight into a concrete wall.”
     

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