Merritt shows support for Humboldt Broncos

By on April 12, 2018
Students at Merritt Central Elementary showed their support for those affected by the accident involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. (Dara Hill/Herald).


Merritt Central Elementary students honoured the Humboldt Broncos hockey team with a “jersey day” on April 12.

They’ve joined Canadians from across the country and many groups in Merritt — to show support for the Humboldt community after the local junior hockey team was involved in a bus crash on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin.

Individuals and communities from across the country have shown support for the victims and families of the junior hockey team in a variety of ways. Jersey day is one such initiative.

Kriss Morel, education assistant at Merritt Central Elementary School, said the accident has been a hot topic at the school.

“There’s been lots of conversation with teachers and kids. There’s also been a ton of support offered from the district for students and staff who need it,” she said.

She told the Herald the school decided to take part in jersey day to join others in showing support for the victims and their families.

Martha Chillihitzia, a First Nations support worker at Merritt Central Elementary, made sure everyone could be included with jersey day at the school. She made ‘Broncos’  name bars for all the students to attach to the back of their shirts.

“I saw that at the Chicago Blackhawks – Toronto Maple Leafs game that they changed their name bar on the back and it just said ‘Broncos,’” she said. “I liked that idea and my thought around it was that not everybody was going to come to school with a jersey,” she added.

Workers at Pharmasave in Merritt also donned jerseys to show support on April 12. (Cole Wagner/Herald).

Chillihitzia told the Herald that students, even in the younger grades, have been engaged in the conversation.

“I went into a Grade 4 class. They talked about it — they talked about how truck drivers do get tired and lots of speculation about how it could have happened. They’re also following the news,” she said.

“It’s just a very unfortunate thing that happened and it hit everyone,” she added.

Morel explained she has an 18-year-old son and the conversations they’ve had about the accident haven’t been easy.

“It really hits home — they’re devastating conversations at our house about how that could be their friend group and how tragic it must be for those people and those families,” she said.

Jersey day was in effect at Extra Foods in Merritt. (Dara Hill/Herald).

Chillihitzia explained she was a hockey mom, and now grandma herself.

“My son finished hockey fifteen years ago, but we’re still one family,” she said.

“Travelling down treacherous roads — I remember car pooling and somebody would have to lead the way and we’d all follow behind and the roads were so bad,” she said. “Now he’s got a hockey family, and it just hit home how close the hockey team is and how it can all change in an instant.”

River Anderson and Brayden McRae are two students from Merritt Central Elementary. For jersey day photos the two of them held an eagle staff and a hockey stick to honour the team.

Merritt Secondary School students gathered for a show of support on April 12. (Photos courtesy of Rita Cavaliere).

Chillihitzia explained she made the eagle staff for the school three years ago. It’s used for prayers, and the eagle was chosen because of how high it flies.

“I think it shows that people aren’t alone — people are supporting them,” Anderson told the Herald.

Chillihitzia and Morel echoed a hope that the jersey day gesture shows support.

“We just want the Humboldt Broncos know that we are also a small community, and how everyone here pulled together to support them,” Chillihitzia said.

“When I personally look at the big picture I see that the heartfelt message is so unreal that families and friends feel so supported by the whole world right now,” said Morel.

Merritt Centennials looking to support fellow junior hockey players

A number of players and coaches in the Merritt Centennials organization had connections to the Humboldt Broncos team.

Cents’ head coach and GM Joe Martin shared a good relationship with Broncos’ head coach Darcy Haugan.

“I used to talk with Darcy quite a bit about a decade ago, or 11 or 12 years ago before I came here,” said Martin. “Since he moved to Humboldt, I talked to him a couple times a year.”

Haugan was one of the 16 people who died in the crash.

The crash hits home for the Merritt junior A team, which travels by bus to every away game during the season.

“Three hundred buses in North America taking athletes around in one sport — it could happen anywhere,” said Martin.

The Centennials organization will be raffling off one final mental health jersey, with the funds going to support the Humboldt Broncos team.

Tickets can be purchased by donation at the Cents marketing office at 2001C Voght Street. The hockey club is also collecting donations for the Broncos on behalf of community groups and businesses.

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