The tragic bus crash Friday in Saskatchewan involving the Humboldt Broncos’ hockey club hit far too close to home for Rylan Ferster.
The head coach and GM of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors was not only born and raised in the prairie province, he played with the Broncos as a 16-year-old rookie during the 1985-86 season.
Ferster also played three years with the Nipawin Hawks, the team the Broncos were travelling to play in an SJHL playoff game when their bus collided with a truck, killing 15 of the 29 people on board.
“I’ve been on that road many times, I know exactly where it happened,” said Ferster, who was born in nearby Prince Albert, Sask. “It’s been tough. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people back home. I know how I feel two provinces away and it’s just devestating.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people back home and they’re reeling, some of them can’t even talk about it,” Ferster said Sunday. “It’s horrific on so many levels.”
Ferster still travels thousands of kilometres every season on a team bus as a head coach in the BCHL. Ferster said for anyone who has ever been associated with a junior hockey team, the shocking reality is difficult to comprehend.
“It’s almost like the bus is supposed to be a safe haven, you feel safe when you get on, kind of like an extension of the dressing room,” Ferster said. “It’s a place where bonds form between people and teammates, where memories are made…junior hockey should be the best times of their lives.
“To have this happen is beyond belief.”
Still, in the face of the tragedy, Ferster fully expects the people of Saskatchewan and the hockey community at large to pull together and support to those in their time of need.
“There are so many people connected to junior hockey, something like this really brings people together,” said Ferster. “To lose 15 people who were all so tight, for them to pass away at once is beyond words.
“I grew up in Saskatchewan and I know how wonderful and supportive the people are,” he added. “They’ll pick everyone up and get each other through this.”
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