In a world divided… Hockey helps bring us together
Hockey. We all love it. The passion for the game that’s within us all. Some play, some don’t, all appreciate. This past season had it’s up and downs but no community comes together like the hockey community. We may root for different teams and we may have different loyalties in life but when it comes down to it, we are all bound by a love of the game. A love of the game that spans from grandfather to father. From grandmother to mother and from parents to children. We lift each other up in times of sorrow and experience all the joys of the game with the ones we love.
This past season we saw an expansion team become the heartbeat of a Las Vegas community that suffered unimaginable losses. We saw them take the pain of that city and turn it into the greatest run an expansion team has ever had in the history of the four major sports. The Vegas Golden Knights captivated the league with their never back down attitude, their tenacity on pucks and their ability to turn tears and sorrow into hope and building-shaking cheers.
Deryk Engelland’s speech on opening night in Vegas combined with the honoring of the first responders showed that Vegas community that this team cared and they were going to do what they could to help. That team and those players… they did all they could to lift a city up. No one can change what happened last year in Las Vegas, but the Golden Knights were determined to show the world that they and their community were Vegas strong through and through.
That Las Vegas shooting wouldn’t be the last tragedy either. Communities in both Parkland, Florida and Humboldt, Saskatchewan had to deal with things no families should ever have to deal with: the loss of their children. When things seemed to be getting darker, the hockey community was there to show they could be a beacon of hope and light. The hockey world rallied around both communities with Roberto Luongo giving one of the most riveting, heartfelt and downright powerful speeches of recent memory. Players teared up on the bench, the crowd hung on every word and Luongo expressed the need to take action to ensure something like that never happens again.
So what did the Panthers do for that community? Everything they could. Soon after the shooting the hockey team of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School won their state hockey championship. They earned the right to go to nationals and the Florida Panthers organization gave them their private plane for the trip. The hosted them at a game and showed them that they were there for them in their time of need. Oh, and that same MSD hockey team… what did they do with their medals? They draped them around the memorials for their fallen classmates and teachers. As the players said, their win was for the 17 that were lost. Their win was in their classmates honor.
Humboldt, Saskatchewan… I know I was at a loss for words. So many of us were. The Broncos bus crash was one of the worst tragedies the hockey community has ever suffered. Young men who were taken from this world and taken from their friends and families way too soon. I’ll tell you one thing though, the outpouring of support for Humboldt was nothing short of amazing. The entire hockey world showed Humboldt that we wouldn’t forget them. We showed Humboldt that we cared. Sticks were left on stoops, in doorways, in driveways in solidarity. Tributes occurred throughout the NHL. Moments of silence of course but also even more powerful acts as well. The Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets stood at center ice during their game on April 7th with Broncos adorning the back of every single players jersey. The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets played O’Canada before their game on April 7th even though neither team is based in a Canadian province.
Surviving Broncos players were honored at various games during the year, GoFundMe’s were set up, fundraisers happened everywhere and the hockey world made sure they rallied around this community and lifted them up as best they could. The hockey world showed that we are all one big family who, when it comes down to it, is one of the best in the entire world. Chandler Stephenson, of the Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals, plans to spend his day with the cup in Humboldt. Ken Campbell of the Hockey News wrote an amazing tribute story on the Broncos in the Hockey News magazine a few months back and I highly recommend checking it out.
So why talk about all this now? Why talk about the tragedies that occured this season? Because even in the darkest of moments the hockey community comes together as one and shows it’s true colors. The colors of a caring community of people, players, fans and everyone in between who love the sport and who will jump at the chance to help if something in that community is threatened or hurt in some way, The world right now is more divided than it’s ever been with terms like Liberal and Conservative being thrown around like slurs and with people at each other’s throats over seemingly every issue. I think everyone needs to look at what the hockey community has done this past year, what the hockey community has always done, and see how unifying a community of people can be. At the very least, talk to your friend, your neighbor, your parents… anyone and try to see if you can help someone with any issue, no matter how big or small it may be.
Once the season rolls around again, itll be time for more of the game we love but during this offseason it’s important to talk about the game from different angles. The hockey community is strong, the hockey community is powerful and the hockey community cares. I’m damn proud to belong to it. Im damn proud to have met so many great people through it and I’m damn sure that this community will rally around those who needs it’s help next.