The Dance and Its Disappearance

Humboldt Broncos

I am not what you would call a spiritual person.

On Friday of last week as you no doubt have heard, there was a bus crash that killed fifteen people. Many of them were teenagers. Hockey players on their way out of town for a road trip. The entire nation has felt this loss because so many of us have been on the same bus making the same trip to the same out of town game.

I can tell you from experience that tragedy is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind on that bus. No one is thinking about what will happen if the bus hits a transport truck going 100 kilometers an hour. They are thinking about how much fun they will have screwing around in the hotel and how great it is that they will get to live on fast food for the next few days and how professional they feel playing a real life road game.

The hotel probably sucks but who cares? It’s a hotel and there is nothing more exciting to a teenager than a hotel. There are hallways to run down and beds to mess up and ice machines to needlessly use and people to annoy. Coaches will surely try to corral them but who can corral a group of teenagers, full of possibility? They’ll even play a hockey game.

These kids will not do that. Their parents have gravestones where medals and trophies should be. I can find no meaning in this tragedy and I do not think there is one to be found. Sometimes a terrible thing happens and there is no meaning to be found in it. Meaning cannot comfort the dead and the dead cannot comfort the living. This is just a tragedy.

Across the country many of us made a futile and wholly beautiful gesture. We took our hockey sticks – the stereotypes are true, we all have hockey sticks – and laid them outside. Some propped up by the front door like we did when we were kids, always ready for a game of road hockey that could break out at any moment.

Darren Gill’s 15 hockey sticks in memory of the Humboldt Broncos

“The boys might it … wherever they are.” was the tweet. It accompanied a picture of a lone hockey stick, propped up in a porch and bathed in light from over the door. I saw this and I saw thousands of other Canadians do the same. I wept. My father put a hockey stick on the deck.

A family from where I live, Newfoundland, found out that their son – initially believed to be alive – had been mistaken for another boy. He was dead all along and the news was crushing. I do not know them and I do not know what I would say to someone in a situation like this.

Every night is filled to the seams with so much possibility. When I was 16 travelling with my hockey team to a town called Gander where I got food poisoning and my girlfriend dumped me. I do not remember what caused it or why she left me because there was hockey and there was a hotel and we ran through the halls like crazed animals smelling blood. Someone managed to turn the breaker box off, plunging the hotel into darkness. That I can remember.

This tragedy reminded me that some of my best memories are derived from road trips. We drove across the province one year to play a baseball tournament in Corner Brook. I brought my xbox and we played MVP Baseball 2004 all night. I think we finished third. My cousin dropped a flyball because he dropped to one knee to catch it. We still talk about that. ” I slipped in raccoon shit,” he said. There are no raccoons in Corner Brook that I know about.

Those kids do not have the luxury I do. I have a lifetime of memories that are in no way sullied by a horrible crash. The survivors have to live with this and the families and friends of the dead have to live with the dead. There will be no nights where they drink too much and laugh too loudly about dropped flyballs and mishaps with a fuse box. We left our hockey sticks outside. I can do nothing else. I hope there is some relief in death because the living are left to mourn strangers in whom we see so much of ourselves.

This is a link to the GoFundMe for the families of the Humboldt Broncos victims.

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