No Distance between Us: Canadians Respond to the Humboldt Broncos Bus Tragedy

A concept essential to Canadian sport is distance. The distance travelled by parents, the distance separating experiences and backgrounds and, as the nation has been so painfully reminded of late, the vast and unrelenting distances traversed by young athletes.

The stark reality of this distance was impossible to ignore after the horrific Humboldt Broncos bus crash that claimed the lives of sixteen people and affected countless others several weeks ago near Connaught, Saskatchewan.

However, in the face of this devastating tragedy, through its clothing, instruments, or its fundraising apparatuses, sport has helped conquer distance. To suggest that the response to this tragedy is based solely on sport would be reductive to the point of disrespect. The size, scale, and circumstances of this traumatic accident captured the nation’s attention. The magnitude and nature of the response has revealed the immense social impact that sport has in the lives of millions of Canadians.

At the time of writing, fundraising efforts in support of the families affected by the tragedy have reached over $11 million, with donations pouring in from all around the world. Beyond the fundraising successes, support has also taken the form of social gestures intended to express solidarity and community.

On Thursday, April 12, Canadians from coast to coast wore hockey sweaters, soccer, football, and baseball jerseys, in an attempt to show support for the Humboldt community and for those who have been affected by the tragedy. Another campaign, popularized on social media as #SticksOutforHumboldt, saw Canadians leaving hockey sticks of all sizes and descriptions outside their doors. These actions have allowed Canadians to further process grief through sport, to use the equipment and costume of sport as a tool to promote healing.

Distance can feel acutely isolating on the western Canadian prairies, especially in times of tragedy. However, the collective response to the tragedy in Humboldt has illustrated the impact that sport has on the social fabric of our country and its capacity to help shrink the distances between Canadians.

- Taylor McKee, phd candidate
- Alison Doherty, professor