Canadian town mourns dead hockey players

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Canada and the town of Humboldt are mourning the hockey players and others killed in a bus crash.Family and friends have gathered at an ice hockey arena to mourn 15 people killed after a lorry crashed into a bus carrying a youth team in western Canada.
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Fourteen were also injured, some critically, in a collision that has devastated the town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan.

The bus had 29 passengers, including the driver, when it crashed at about 5pm on Friday on Highway 35, police said. Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

Residents of the town of less than 6000 have been leaving flowers, team jerseys and personal tributes on the steps of the arena’s entrance, forming a makeshift memorial.

One tribute included a Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner box, which was a favourite meal of victim Evan Thomas. A bouquet of pink roses adorned the box, which read “to Evan, game day special, love your billet

Most of the players were from elsewhere in western Canada and they were put up by families in the small town of Humboldt. Billeting families is a large part of junior ice hockey, with players spending years with host families.

Dennis Locke, his wife and three young children came to the arena to hang posters of forward Jaxon Joseph, who is the son of former NHL player Chris Joseph. The Locke family housed Joseph and treated him like a son.

Forward Logan Hunter and defencemen Stephen Wack, Adam Herold and Xavier Labelle were also among the dead, according to family members and others. Assistant coach Mark Cross, bus driver Glen Doerksen and stats keeper Brody Hinz, who was 18, were also killed.

Herold, who would have turned 17 on Thursday, played for the Regina Pat Canadians hockey team until just weeks ago, but was sent to join the Broncos for their play-off round when the Pat Canadians’ season wrapped up.

Norman Mattock, a long-time season ticket holder, said his neighbour housed player Morgan Gobeil. The defenceman was severely injured and remains in a serious but stable condition, Mattock said.

He said players become part of the community fabric, doing volunteer work or serving in restaurants. Three players who were billeted by the same family all died in the crash, he added.

“They lost them all,” Mattock said.

A vigil will be held on the hockey team’s home ice on Sunday night, and a makeshift stage and hundreds of chairs sit ready for the memorial.

“We’re devastated,” said hockey club vice president Randolph MacLEAN. “At the centre of this, we have 15 souls who’ll never go home again. We have 29 lives that will never be the same.”

He said the community comes together at the arena on game nights that draw 800 to 1000 people to the stands.

“It’s an energy that spreads through the town with road signs saying ‘game tonight’, tickets for sale everywhere,” he said.

Canadian police said the truck driver, who was not hurt, was initially detained but has since been released and provided with mental health assistance.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said it is too early to state a cause for the crash.

Photographs of the wreckage showed the twisted trailer with most of its wheels in the air and the bus on its side with its back portion destroyed. The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the north-west corner of the intersection.

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