Los Angeles - The North American hockey community was struggling to come to terms Saturday with the immense sorrow being felt following the horrific crash of a Canadian junior hockey team's bus that killed 15 people.
Shock and disbelief switched to sorrow and grief once the magnitude of the Humboldt Broncos' bus crash was realized and names of the victims revealed.
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock fought back tears as he expressed his feelings for the victims and their families in his home province of Saskatchewan.
"I grew up right there in Saskatoon," Babcock said. "It is just down the road. I can't even imagine being a parent or the wife or the kids at home and going through something like this.
"The hockey world is an unbelievable world. You can't make up for loss, you just can't."
Canadian police said 15 people were killed and 14 others injured after a transport truck collided with the bus that was carrying the players, coaches and team personnel to a playoff game in Nipawan.
Among those confirmed dead are the head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and 16-year-old Adam Herold who was one of the youngest players on the team.
Of the 14 injured people, police said some were critical.
"It's got to rip the heart out of your chest. We pray for those families and we're thinking about them. I don't know what else to say. Horrific, horrific accident. Tough day," Babcock said.
Former Detroit Red Wing player Sheldon Kennedy survived another junior hockey team bus crash in Saskatchewan back in 1986.
Four of Kennedy's Swift Current Bronco teammates -- who were sitting in the back of the team bus playing cards -- died when it skidded off the highway and flipped in snowy conditions.
"It's massive," Kennedy, who was 17 at the time of the 1986 crash, told Canadian broadcaster Global News on Saturday. "This awful accident has happened.
"You are losing your teammates and your friend. You are losing your son and I think those have long lasting impacts," he said.
Kennedy said the emotional strain of the Humboldt crash will be felt throughout the hockey world, but "as a community and people you can get through it by pulling together."
The Humboldt team plays in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League which is a feeder system for the higher levels. Many graduate to play at US and Canadian colleges and major junior teams, while some go on to the National Hockey League.
Former NHL players like defenseman Chris Chelios, goaltender Ron Hextall, forward Rod Brind'Amour and hall of fame goaltender Glenn Hall all played in the SJHL.
Everytime Kennedy passes that stretch of highway just outside of Swift Current, Saskatchewan he sees the memorial that was placed on the side of the road at the crash site.
His advice to the survivors of the crash and the small community of 6,000 in Humboldt is to seek help and support.
- 'Impact is real' -
"I think of the individuals that survived the crash and the survivors guilt that comes with that. 'I could have done this or maybe I should have done that,'" Kennedy said.
"One of the things I realized, and others that survived the crash, is we never understood why we felt the way we felt.
"The hockey community is massive across this country. There is lots of support. It is a time to reflect. The most important thing is be there for one another and for people struggling. The impact is real."
Maple Leafs forward Patrick Marleau grew up in Swift Current and said the tragedy will extend beyond Humboldt.
"In Saskatchewan every community is fairly small. Everybody knows everybody. It's a very tight knit," Marleau said.
Messages of support also came from outside the hockey community like the NBA TorontAo Raptors.
"Thinking of the Humboldt Broncos and our friends in the hockey community at this terrible time. From Toronto to the Prairies our thoughts and prayers are with you."//AFP