By Derek Holtom
A week ago Jamie Hodson, the director of business and hockey operations for the Virden Oil Capitals, was cruising down the highway towards Steinbach, talking about his excitement for the start of the MJHL final. Then tragedy struck the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos, sending shockwaves across the country and around the world.
In the aftermath, the MJHL shut down their championship series and focused on assisting their brothers and sisters in the SJHL. Time was taken to mourn. To comprehend. To reflect. But Thursday night, the MJHL final resumed, beginning with one of the most special and touching moments ever to be seen in a MJHL arena.
Game 2 took place in Virden, but every effort to honour the Humboldt Broncos was made collectively. Hodson noted the Oil Capitals, the Pistons, the MJHL, and the Town of Virden all contributed and collaborated, and they ended up with something special.
“We wanted to really recognize what has happened,” said Hodson Friday morning. “Everywhere there is hockey going on, it’s helping the healing process. And we want Humboldt to realize everyone is thinking of them, and this was our way to honour what has happened.”
Everywhere you looked there were tributes and acknowledgements honouring the Broncos. There were Humboldt Broncos flags flying all throughout the Town of Virden. Both teams wore jerseys with “Broncos” on the back, rather than their names. Minor hockey players (from both Virden and Steinbach), along with parents of the Pistons and Oil Capitals, first responders and billet families all took part in the pre-game ceremony.
There was a touching tribute video honouring the Broncos. A #humboldtbroncos Strong T-shirt sat in the announcer’s box at Tundra Place. Sticks were put outside the arena – including one for the trainer. Even the skate laces and stick tape were green and gold to honour the Broncos.
“We were all part of the process, from the pre-game ceremony, to everything else that was going on,” said Hodson. “We wanted to show unity, and show that everyone in hockey has been affected by everything that’s happened.”
The healing process will continue, though for some, it will take longer. The SJHL-MJHL Showcase brought the two teams together in January, and one of the survivors of the crash is a former Steinbach Pistons’ player. These two junior A hockey leagues share a special friendship, ties which have been strengthened in the wake of this tragedy.
“This accident has affected everyone in different ways,” noted Hodson. “When you put yourself in their shoes, your heart bleeds for them. And then you think ‘What else can we do to help this organization? What can we do to take care of that community?”
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the victims of this accident. If you would like to help, you can visit https://www.gofundme.com/funds-for-humboldt-broncos