Fatal junior team crash in Canada leaves ice hockey world in shock

April 7 (Reuters) - Ice hockey teams around the world expressed shock and paid tribute on Saturday to the Canadian junior team whose bus was involved in a crash that killed at least 15 people.

The Humboldt Broncos were on their way to compete in a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks when their bus collided with a tractor trailer about 185 miles (300 km) north of Regina in Saskatchewan.

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who grew up nearby in Saskatoon and went on to steer the Canadian ice hockey team to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014, began a pre-game news conference fighting back tears.

"I can't even imagine being a parent, or the wife, or the kids at home, going through something like this," he said.

RELATED: Junior hockey team bus crashes in Canada killing 15

27 PHOTOS
Junior hockey team bus crashes in Canada
See Gallery
Junior hockey team bus crashes in Canada
An emergency vehicle is seen near the crash site on April 7, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
The Nipawin Apostolic Church is viewed on April 7, 2018 in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
The Nipawin Hospital is viewed on April 7, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
An emergency vehicle is seen near the crash site on April 7, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
An emergency vehicle is seen near the crash site on April 7, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
An emergency vehicle is seen near the crash site on April 7, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
The Nipawin Hospital emergency entrance is viewed on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency vehicles and planes make preparations on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency vehicles are seen near the crash site on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
Families, friends and supporters of the Humboldt hockey team gathered in Nipawin's Apostolic Church as they wait for news of loved ones on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
Hawk ground, Nipawin local hockey team's home where the game was supposed to happen last nightis viewed on April 6, 2018, after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
Families, friends and supporters of the Humboldt hockey team gathered in Nipawin's Apostolic Church as they wait for news of loved ones on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
Families, friends and supporters of the Humboldt hockey team gathered in Nipawin's Apostolic Church as they wait for news of loved ones on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
Families, friends and supporters of the Humboldt hockey team gathered in Nipawin's Apostolic Church as they wait for news of loved ones on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
An emergency vehicle is seen near the crash site on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
An emergency vehicle is seen near the crash site on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
An emergency vehicle is seen near the crash site on April 6, 2018 after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck between Tisdale and Nipawin, Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people. Hockey-mad Canada was in mourning on Saturday after a bus carrying a junior ice hockey team collided with a semi-trailer truck in Saskatchewan province, killing 14 people.In a country where love of the sport is almost a religion, the crash sparked an outpouring of grief among players and fans on social media, while national political leaders expressed their sympathies.'We can now confirm 14 people have died as a result of this collision,' the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement, which did not say how many of the victims were players or coaches of the Humboldt Broncos team. / AFP PHOTO / Kymber RAE (Photo credit should read KYMBER RAE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Humboldt Broncos team jersey is seen among notes and flowers at a memorial for the Humboldt Broncos team leading into the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
President of the SJHL Bill Chao speaks with members of the community and media during a press at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
Humboldt Broncos President Keven Garinger (L) and Assistant General Manager Jason Neville address members of the community and media during a press at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
Members of the community and media gather for a press conference with RCMP and representatives of the Humboldt Broncos and the Junior Hockey League at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
Saskatchewan RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki addresses members of the community and media during a press at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
Humboldt Broncos President Keven Garinger (R) and President of the SJHL Bill Chao speak with members of the community and media during a press at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
Members of the community and media gather for a press conference with RCMP and representatives of the Humboldt Broncos and the Junior Hockey League at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
Members of the community and media gather for a press conference with RCMP and representatives of the Humboldt Broncos and the Junior Hockey League at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
Humboldt Broncos President Keven Garinger speaks with members of the community and media during a press at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
President of the SJHL Bill Chao speaks with members of the community and media during a press at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Saskatchewan, Canada April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Smith
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"The hockey world is an unbelievable world. You can't make up for loss, you just can't. It's going to rip the heart out of your chest. We pray for those families and think about them."

Sorrow was felt far beyond hockey-loving Canada: the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) carried the Humboldt Broncos logo on its website's homepage and said a moment of silence was scheduled ahead of Saturday's game between Poland and Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia's capital.

Another moment of silence will be observed before Sunday's match-up between Latvia and Kazakhstan in Riga.

"The international ice hockey community extends its sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those involved," IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement.

National Hockey League coaches and players also expressed condolences. The Calgary Flames had a Broncos team photo up in their locker room. The Philadelphia Flyers held a moment of silence before their game against the New York Rangers.

Babcock addressed the news conference in front of a backdrop that carried both the Maple Leafs and Broncos logos.

He said he knew the highway where the accident took place pretty well: long road trips are part and parcel of youth and junior hockey life in the province.

"You're bonding on that bus and that's when you spend the most time together," said Damon Severson, a defenseman with the NHL's New Jersey Devils who grew up in the area.

Established in 1970, the Broncos are in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), which is for players aged 16 to 20.

"The league is what we used to call in the old days, Tier 2 junior. It's high-level hockey," said David Gregory, an NHL scout. "These are kids committed to the game, and Humboldt was in their playoffs and are all on the way to what they hope is a championship."

The coach of the NHL's Washington Capitals, Barry Trotz, who played for Regina in the SJHL and then in the Western Hockey League, said every NHL player could relate to the Broncos on the bus.

"Those young men were chasing a dream," Trotz said. "Because a lot of our players in this league were chasing that same dream and being on the same buses on the way." (Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; writing by Daniel Wallis, editing by G Crosse and Sandra Maler)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.