On Friday April 6, the hockey world stood still as a bus carrying 28 players, coaches, and staff of the Humboldt Broncos collided with a transport truck as it was on its way to Nipawin, Saskatchewan for a playoff game. The crash killed 16 on board that bus. The hours after the news of the crash spread, everyone in the hockey community came together to help the community deal with the tragedy. Games began with players on both teams standing side-by-side at centre ice. Photos of hockey sticks being left out on front porches is all over social media. A Go Fund Me account to help the families of the victims surpassed the $4 Million goal in just over 48 hours.
Then there were the mass shootings at a music festival in Las Vegas and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. While athletes in other sports used these incidents to make political statements, Derek Engelland and Roberto Luongo both did it right in my opinion. Engelland, a Las Vegas native, spoke to the home crowd at the first Golden Knights home game in franchise history just days after the shooting there. Luongo, the Florida Panthers goaltender, addressed the crowd at their first home game since the Parkland shooting. Luongo was especially disgusted by what had happened since the school is located near where he lives. But he and Engelland did not make their speech a political one. Both kept everything in perspective. People like to talk about situations going on in parts of the world from a distance. Luongo and Engelland live in these communities. For them the incidents hit close to home and they had every right to speak up.
It did not surprise me one bit to see the hockey community respond the way they did to those incidents. Hockey players are not like any other athlete. They are cut from a totally different cloth. There is a connection between Canadians and hockey players that you don’t see other sports. Football and basketball players seem to take a rather condescending approach. You don’t hear hockey players bitch and complain (except perhaps Sean Avery), instead they roll up their sleeves to help these people get their lives back to as close to normal as possible.
There are those who like to dismiss hockey players as men (and women) exerting their testosterone on a sheet of ice. The game of hockey especially on a competitive level is often violent. But you don’t see players take their frustrations with them off the ice. There are some parents of hockey players who take the game way too seriously, but for the most part people involved in hockey are humble, charitable, caring. Altruism is as much a quality for a hockey player as is the ability to skate and shoot. That what sets them apart from other athletes.