Following a collision in Cape Breton on Saturday in which a bus carrying a Bantam hockey team from the Annapolis Valley slid off an icy highway, the Maritime hockey world is reacting. While the collision didn’t result in any deaths or serious injuries, for many, it was a vivid reminder of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy.
With the bus carrying several 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds through snowy and windy conditions sliding off Highway 105 in Queensville, N.S., it was a scene that could have been worse.
"Right away, your mind goes to Humboldt and the tragedy that happened there in Saskatchewan," says resident Darren Desmond.
On Sunday, the Cape Breton Bantam Cougars, who were supposed to host the Valley team, used the day to practice instead. The opposing team is simply grateful most of the 19 players and coaches on the visiting bus escaped without serious injury.
“It's still at the forefront of everybody's mind, that tragedy,” says Cape Breton Cougars head coach, James Sanford. “But I was in contact with the coaching staff pretty much right after it happened – so I kind of knew everybody was OK."
RCMP say a 13-year-old was taken to hospital with what was believed to be an injury to his arm; however, no one else was hurt. Police say conditions were slippery at the time and that the bus was one of several vehicles that went off the road.
Nova Scotia Major Bantam Hockey League president, Todd Watson, says he's been told the bus was travelling well below the speed limit. He also notes the league has strict policies when it comes to travel and the weather – adding they'll wait until officials complete their report into the crash before determining whether any changes need to be made.
"Everyone comes together and wants to help the kids and help the organization – you know, get through something this hard, right?” says Sanford.
In the meantime, many are turning their attention to several other Maritime hockey teams -- taking to social media to show support for the Wildcats. In addition, parents from the Cougars quickly came together to help in the immediate aftermath.
"We all kind of chipped in and made sure they had everything they needed,” says Desmond. “Whether it was accommodations, clothing or whatever."
Meanwhile, the hockey community is breathing a collective sigh of relief after another reminder of the dangers faced during long hours of travel through harsh Maritime winters.
"They're safe, they're OK – there were no major injuries,” says Sanford. “It could have been, you know, a real big tragedy, right?"