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Canadian Town deals with commotion and grief after the bus accident

HUMBOLDT, Canada: When a snowstorm hit this small farming community in central Saskatchewan recently, residents hired children from the city's junior hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos, to dig them up. Team members played floor hockey once a week with adults with special needs, took younger children to Halloween, or volunteered at elementary schools.

The huge role of the 25-member team in this city of 5,800 exacerbated the pain and shock of Friday's accident, in which a bus carrying the team collided with a truck, killing 15 and injuring several others, while the team was heading to a postseason game.

"They're our guys," said Wendy Shanks, a resident of Humboldt who describes herself as one of the dedicated fans of the team. "They are the kids of all". We feel like family. "

Ms. Shanks was among the dozens of people who leaked in and out of the city's Uniplex recreation center on Sunday as officials prepared for a night vigil for those affected by the accident.

Stairs leading to Elgar Petersen Stadium, home of the Bronco Ice, were filled with bouquets, cards and notes left over the weekend.

On Sunday nights, assistant coach Mark Cross and several Broncos players helped run a recreational league, an activity appreciated by locals, and Mr. Cross was reportedly killed in the bus accident.

Even in a country obsessed with hockey that has even Putting images of children playing on their tickets, the Broncos had an imposing presence in Humboldt, a city that depends on potash mining and agriculture. better in the province, said the mayor of Humboldt, Rob Muench. Many of the team's players came from other communities in western Canada to play for the Broncos, who were hosted during the season by local families.

Assistance here is a central activity; The hockey stadium in the city has a capacity of 1,772, almost a third of its population. And residents said the team felt it was important to give something back to the community that supported them.

"That's why the community is suffering so much," said Justin Rempel, who works as a coach for the Melfort Mustangs team, another Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team based in a nearby city.

One of the Broncos players, Jaxon Joseph, was with Melfort's team until they changed it a few months ago. Mr. Joseph, son of former National Hockey League defender Chris Joseph, was identified by his former team in British Columbia as one of the deceased.

"He was probably one of the funniest guys I met," said Mr. Rempel, who said the young hockey player attended his wedding. He said Mr. Joseph loved trying to get under the skin of other players with teasing and teasing, "But the guy would give you the shirt on his back" if he thought he could help you, he said. "He was a very genuine guy, very kind, always wanting to do something for someone else."

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has not disclosed the names of those who died in the accident, but some have been identified by family members, employers and associates. On Sunday, team president Kevin Garinger said one person had been discharged from the hospital.

Others identified as dead include the team bus driver and the team captain. The city's radio station said in a statement that its hockey game commentator Tyler Bieber and a recent addition, volunteer statistician Brody Hinz, 18, also died in the accident.

Darcy Haugan, head coach of the Humboldt Broncos, was also identified. as one of the deceased on Facebook and

Twitter

publications of two of his sisters. Mr. Haugan's wife, Christina George-Haugan, posted a photo with her and her husband framed in black. A photo of him with his two small children was also published. More than 100 friends sent their condolences.

Gail Chilman said he first received Mr. Haugan in 1995 while playing for the local team in Estevan, Saskatchewan, and received him several more times when he returned to the community to help with his regular team. hockey camps, which were held to see potential players. Ms. Chilman said that he was passionate about hockey and training, and that he was especially good with children. He remained in close contact with his family after his stay ended, he said.

"He was just an incredible man," he said. "It just fits perfectly in our family."

Tony Nienaber, whose daughter is the host of two of the players who were injured, said they were like family to them. Mr. Nienaber lives in a suite of in-laws in the same house, and the family often watched hockey games together in the living room, he said. After the crash, Nienaber said he was moved to hear that the players, Derek Patter and Greysen Cameron, asked the hospital people to send him a message that he should not worry about his injuries.

A A photo posted on Twitter showed the two players holding hands in the hospital, along with teammate Nick Shumlanski.

Colleen Dufort, a Humboldt resident who has housed hockey players with her husband in previous years, said many young people admire the Broncos players. "These guys are heroes for the children of our community," he said.

Write to Kim Mackrael at kim.mackrael@wsj.com

Appeared in the print edition of April 9, 2018 as "City of Canada mourns victims of the accident of bus & # 39;

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