The game of hockey in its simplest form is exactly that, a game. Two teams posed against one another in a battle of both physical and mental abilities. One single sheet of ice enclosed by walls that do not allow the faint of heart to escape the inevitable contact that the game requires. In this sense, the game is nothing but an athletic contest played in the name of sport and entertainment. However, to those who find themselves lucky enough to play the game there is much more to this sport then that. There are elements to the lifestyle of being a hockey player that allow its participants to grow both as athletes and as people. From the on-ice practices to the off-ice conditioning sessions, teammates learn to support each other and work together to achieve common goals. The team dinners, meetings, parties, they all serve a purpose in very unique ways. The most sacred of these events however is most commonly known by the term “roadie”.
The hockey team road trip is an experience like no other in sports. Some of the most enjoyable memories are cultivated during the long hours spent traveling to your next opponent. Whether it be hours spent playing card games using the team cooler as the illustrious table, or a spontaneous team karaoke session that displays everyone’s mediocre vocal abilities, it all builds lasting connections. Some choose to catch up on some sleep while others crack the laptop open and finish their homework for that evening. No matter your choice of activity it always seems a little more special when it’s on the bus. The nature of the bus is a unique experience on so many levels it is almost impossible to accurately depict on paper. Everyone knows that corky bus driver that made your whole team laugh with his announcements over the speakers. Everyone remembers that time the bus broke down and the entire team slept parked in a rest stop waiting for repairs that seemed to never come when they said they would. If you’ve never played tag on the way back to the bus from the restaurant have you really ever done it right? The memories are endless and the stories run for miles in the minds of those that have been there.
The bond that you share with your seat buddy that has been designated by your side is irreplaceable. I mean if you think about it, if you sit next to someone for hours on end with nothing but each other’s company to entertain yourselves, you’d assume a natural connection would arise. Some learn they have a lot in common with their teammate while others realize they are completely different people but still share the love of a family member regardless. There is never a sense of distain towards a teammate. The amount of trust and loyalty to one another does not allow room for these type of negative emotions to take shape. You have conversations and learn of each other’s stories, even if it’s the hundredth time you’ve told it you know everyone still listens. You know the difference between the time to be social and the time to take care of business. We all know the pre-game ride when you approach the rink, the calm silence with a faint ring of headphones blasting a variety of music selections. The coaching staff going over last minute adjustments. The bus driver turning on the interior lights of the cabin to indicate that nap time is over and game time is now. The entire experience is enough to send shivers down my spine as I write about this. No matter the circumstance above all else, the team bus is a place of comfort and family. The friendships that blossomed will never been duplicated. The memories created will never fade in the hearts and minds of each and every person. The truly meaningful moments that a group of best friends will share forever. This is what the road trips are able to create.
On April 6, 2018 a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos Junior Hockey Team collided with a semi-trailer truck near Armley, Saskatchewan, Canada, killing 16 people and injuring 13. This unspeakably tragic event shocked not only the hockey community, but those all over the globe. So many lives changed in a matter of seconds. Lives that were lost but will most certainly never be forgotten. Lives that are now remembered and celebrated all over the hockey world with symbolic gestures. The immediate response of sympathy, support, and love from millions has been staggering. Although there is nothing that can be done to relieve the pain this tragedy has inflicted, the hockey family has come together to provide as much comfort as humanly possible. This culture of love and passion is what the Humboldt Broncos will forever represent in the hearts of people everywhere.