Humboldt Broncos alum Ashton McLeod pauses to compose himself during remarks at the vigil. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

Humboldt Broncos alum Ashton McLeod pauses to compose himself during remarks at the vigil. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

VIDEO: Castlegar hosts emotional vigil for Humboldt Broncos

More than 600 people came out to show support for the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus accident.

CASTLEGAR — More than 600 people came out Thursday night to the Castlegar Complex to show support for the victims and families of those killed and injured in the Humboldt Broncos bus accident.

They were all decked out in every imaginable hockey jersey as a tribute to the power and impact of hockey in the community.

After a standing ovation for the many first responders in attendance, Elder Bev Gillard, Director, Vice-Chair of the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society, opened the vigil with a blessing.

Watch a replay of the vigil at the bottom of the story

Next, Members of the C.O.I.N.S. Drummers from the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society performed, starting with 16 honour beats. They next performed a stirring version of the Eagle Song, followed by a Cree healing song. The honour beats brought the impact of the vigil to a head with intensity.

Castlegar Rebels president Mike Johnstone opened the formal presentations with a deeply personal and emotional speech, capably bringing home why this tragedy impacted every community across Canada.

“I started taking a mental tour of our team bus on road trips. I could see head coach Bill Rotheisler up on the right, bus driver Robert behind the wheel up front, J.R. Ross right behind him, and then you turn around, and you look back towards the back of the bus, and there are your kids, your boys, your sons,” Johnstone said through tears. “I can tell you, there’s no place those boys would rather be than on that bus, and there’s nowhere they are more comfortable than on that bus with their brothers.”

“The thought of anything happening to our guys — players, coaches, drivers — is like a shot through the soul. I don’t know how they are managing in Saskatchewan. That’s what makes the accident on Friday night so unfair and so heartbreaking: We’ve all been there, we’ve all been on that bus. It could have been any of us.”

Selkirk Saints head coach Brent Heaven joined former Saints player — and former Humboldt Broncos player — Ashton McLeod to share their thoughts. McLeod, wearing his Humboldt Broncos jersey with a bright ‘A’ on the chest, was able to deliver his remarks despite the still-fresh grief that was evident. Coach Heaven rested an arm on Ashton’s shoulder to steady him during the more difficult passages.

“Humboldt, this small town farming community became a second home for me. With a population of only 6,000 people, this place IS a hockey community, it IS their backbone. It’s what everyone looks forward to at the end of the week to head down to the arena, and support their hometown Broncos,” McLeod said. “Whether you’re walking downtown, getting a bite to eat, or fueling up your truck, everyone in the community would go out of their way to ask you how you were doing and show their support. It is such a tightly knit, loving and genuine community. I am deeply saddened for the people who have to endure this pain.”

McLeod went on to describe what it was like to bond with teammates on those long bus rides across snowy highways.

“The bus for us hockey players is a safe haven. Many hours have been spent by all of us travelling all over different provinces pursuing the game that we love. Whether it was Rookie Idol for all of the first-year players, to playing cards at the back of the bus, to eventually having to buckle down on your studies through the late-night road trips, it becomes home,” McLeod said.

“This is the place here your second family is developed. It is where a brotherhood forms. You develop such a bond amongst the players, that cannot exactly be explained until you’ve experienced it for yourself. It is love. Love for the game, and love for your fellow brothers.”

McLeod then closed with the lyrics from musician Jay Smith’s song Humboldt Strong:

“We left a stick out on the front step and signed all your names,

Turned the porch light on just in case you wanted one more game,

There’s no referees or scoreboards and the periods never end

Use the clouds as an ice rink while you play with all your friends

Hey mom and dad, well I made it to the show

You always told me that I would so don’t you worry anymore

I’ve got my teammates by my side, so you don’t have to cry

Just promise me one last thing: you’ll leave the light on, and put my stick out by the door

All the hotel hallway games we played or Slapshot on the bus

There wasn’t anything in this world what meant this much to us

We’ll use your tears to flood the ice, and your prayers to keep us warm

This won’t be our last game, we’re still Humboldt strong.

Hey mom and dad, well I made it to the show

You always told me that I would so don’t you worry anymore

I’ve got my teammates by my side, so you don’t have to cry

Just promise me one last thing: you’ll leave the light on, and put my stick out by the door.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

C.O.I.N.S. Drummers from the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society performed. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

C.O.I.N.S. Drummers from the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society performed. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

A large crowd was decked out in hockey jerseys. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

A large crowd was decked out in hockey jerseys. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

VIDEO: Castlegar hosts emotional vigil for Humboldt Broncos

C.O.I.N.S. Drummers from the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society performed. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

C.O.I.N.S. Drummers from the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society performed. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

A drummer waits to play next to a set of goal pads at the vigil. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

A drummer waits to play next to a set of goal pads at the vigil. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

Castlegar Coun. Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff, event organizer, addresses the vigil. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

Castlegar Coun. Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff, event organizer, addresses the vigil. (John K. White/Castlegar News)

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

Alexander Ericksons award-winning piece, The Provider, on display at the Kitimat Museum and Archives (Photo Frieda Design School)
Kitimat Museum and Archives host Freda Diesing school art exhibition

Local Kitimat art exhibition from students of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art

Security has been stepped up at both Kitimat General Hospital in Kitimat, pictured here, and at the Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace. (File photo)
Stillbirth reaction leads to more hospital security

Staff, physicians facing threats and harassment

Workers at Kitimat General Hospital were presented with a large variety of food packages in appreciation of the last year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The donations came via local Epicurean representative Kerri Weightman who collected money for the purchases. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Hospital workers receive food donation

Workers at Kitimat General Hospital were presented with a large variety of… Continue reading

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read