“To be part of that was something special,” N.S. hockey players reflect on time in Humboldt
Condolences and tributes are still pouring in from the hockey community and well beyond for the Humboldt Broncos.
The tragedy hits very close to home for three former players in the Maritimes, who remember their time in the close knit hockey town fondly.
Former Bronco’s player, Cody Slaght, watched the vigil in Saskatchewan Sunday night from Halifax.
“Every player that goes through there understands what hockey means to that town,” Slaght says, “and for them to lose as many members of that team as they did, it’s heartbreaking.”
He played for the Broncos during their 2012-2013 season.
Slaght says from the moment he arrived, he could see how important hockey was in the small town.
“I remember running on the ice,” he recalls, “even for a warm up, and there’s people in the stands. It’s like this whole aura, just green and yellow everywhere.”
McKullen Astill played for the Broncos this year before being traded to the South Shore Lumberjacks in Bridgewater in January.
He’s grieving the loss of 15 of his friends.
“I was just in utter shock, and I didn’t really believe it had happened,” he says. “I was up the whole night following the news, trying to find out what was happening, and my head has just been spinning ever since, I’ve felt sick.”
Astill has great memories of team bus trips, making the situation even harder.
“I was just imaging myself on the bus,” he says. “I can relate. I’ve experienced exactly the same situation, and I can only imagine what they were doing. The bus trips are always a good time for team bonding, and I’m sure they were having a good time on the bus.”
Morgan Watts played right wing in the 1987 championship year for the Broncos.
Since the accident, he and his former teammates have started a Facebook group to reconnect, and are planning a reunion in Humboldt.
“There’s two seasons in Humboldt. There’s summer, and then there’s hockey season,” Watts says. “I think right now, the most important thing is that we get that second season back so that they continue.”
Watts now coaches with the Dartmouth Whalers, a hockey team raising money for the families of the victims.
Several memorials are taking place across the Maritimes Monday evening, including one at Halifax City Hall where the Saskatchewan flag is flying at half mast, and the building will be lit up in green and cold.
“To be part of that was something special,” says former player Cody Slaght.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Emily Baron Cadloff.