A lone hockey stick, taped with maple leaf embossed hockey tape, leaned outside the main doors of the House of Commons April 16 as MPs returned to Ottawa after a two-week break.
Inside, politicians of all stripes sported jerseys of all colours, shapes and sizes in silent tribute to those who died or were injured in the horrific crash April 6 involving the Humboldt Broncos in northeastern Saskatchewan.
Sixteen people died after the bus carrying the junior A hockey team collided with a tractor trailer while en route to a semi-final game. Many of the victims were young men from communities large and small scattered across Western Canada.
The tragedy has stunned the nation. Millions of dollars have been fundraised. Thousands of tributes have been shared on social media.
Jerseys have been dusted off and hundreds of hockey sticks have been left outside on front porches around the world — just in case the boys who are no longer with us should need ‘em.
Parliamentarians were back home in their ridings when tragedy struck on that rural Saskatchewan road. April 16 was the first time MPs could jointly pay tribute to those affected while sitting in the House of Commons.
Before question period, many MPs chose to use their member’s statements to pay tribute to the victims, their families and the communities affected. More than a few delivered those tributes with their voices breaking. A solemn mood enveloped the chamber.
“We are all numb,” B.C. Conservative MP Todd Doherty told his fellow parliamentarians, calling it an “unbelievable tragedy.”
“This pain will endure long after the ice has melted,” he said, before urging all Canadians to continue to lift up the families affected.
For a brief moment, politics were set aside as Canadians from coast to coast joined together to mourn — with MPs honouring a moment of silence before kicking off the question portion of question period.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and several Conservative MPs traveled to Humboldt for a vigil organized by the community. They were joined by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
None gave political speeches, opting instead to simply sit and listen. They didn’t even sit in the front row.
For those few hours they were simply fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers — Canadians gathered together to lift up the families and offer comfort. It was a quiet showing of national unity at a time of incredible pain.
It’s hard to put into words why the Humboldt tragedy struck such a chord with so many people around the world.
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that hockey has long been Canada’s game, a simple combination of puck, ice and stick that has joined this country together on more than one happy occasion.
Or maybe it’s because so many of us hold fond memories of our own about the time spent on a team bus. In this country, the team bus is an iconic part of a Canadian childhood.
Whether you were a music kid, a sports kids, a member of the school’s debate team, school council member or community organization volunteer — you’ve likely spent hours travelling on a chartered bus.
The bus is where friendships are formed, life lessons are learned, tears are shed and laughs are shared all while the kilometres roll past.
Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, a former hockey coach himself, put it this way. The team bus is the “sanctuary” he said, acting as a rec room, library and bedroom for all those on board.
The road ahead will be painful, the recovery long. The numbness and aching hearts so many of us feel will not disappear overnight.
May all those affected find comfort in the outpouring of love and support radiating across this country. Our thoughts are with you.
We are all #HumboldtStrong.