WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Hockey people always say that the hockey world is a small one, and the bus crash that killed 15 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior team in Saskatchewan on Friday evening left an entire sport with heavy hearts.
“It’s a sad, sad day for the hockey world today,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after extending the team’s condolences to the team and its fan base.
Quenneville played three years in junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey Association, so he’s been on those buses, riding down seemingly endless country roads. The Humboldt bus was T-boned by a truck while the team was en route to a playoff game. Authorities have put the death toll at 15, with the other 14 injured. The players in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League are 16 to 20 years old.
Quenneville was reminded of the Lokomotiv team plane crash in Russia in 2011 that killed 43 of 45 passengers, including NHL standout Pavol Demitra.
“You can’t imagine that,” Quenneville said. “It’s the worst fear as a parent, as a team. … There’s been some tough ones over the years, but it certainly hits home in how close the hockey world and the hockey community is. Not just in Western Canada, but throughout all the leagues and America. [But] especially here.”
All the Hawks and Jets wore “BRONCOS” on the backs of their jerseys instead of their last names, and the Hawks matched a $25,000 donation to the Humboldt club by the Jets and the NHL.
Current Rockford assistant coach and former Hawks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank played for the Broncos for three years, and Hall of Fame goaltender Glenn Hall was born in Humboldt.
Back in action
Jeff Glass has played for 11 teams in four leagues during his 13-year professional hockey career, so he’s used to the uncertainty of going into an offseason without a contract in hand.
“Obviously, it’d be nice to know [where I’ll be next season], but this many years into pro hockey, I realize there are a lot of unknowns,” Glass said. “Probably the person who’s most upset we don’t know is my wife right now. She likes to plan and she has no idea what we’re planning for.”
This summer will be a little different for Glass, however. After finally breaking into the NHL at 32 years old, he’s no longer looking to just latch on to a minor-league team somewhere, and he’s certainly not looking to return to Russia, where he spent seven seasons. Recalled in the wake of Anton Forsberg’s season-ending injury last week, Glass will make his 15th NHL start in Saturday’s season finale at Winnipeg.
His numbers are modest — 3-6-3 with a .898 save percentage and a 3.31 goals-against average — but Glass proved to himself that he’s an NHL-caliber goalie. He hopes he’s proven it to others around the league, too.
“It was always the plan to get here and do this,” he said. “My goal is to be a full-time NHLer. I took a step in the right direction this year, but by no means am I there yet. I just have to keep working. I’m more motivated than ever now to get to that level and maintain that level.”
Glass’ season won’t end Saturday. He’ll go back to Rockford and rejoin the red-hot IceHogs for their playoff push. When he arrived in Rockford in the fall, there were 14 rookies on the team. Now, it’s a much more veteran roster, with NHL stalwarts such as Cody Franson and Lance Bouma playing major roles on and off the ice.
The IceHogs are 12-2-2 in their last 16 games, barging their way into the playoff picture.
“It’s been exciting down there, it’s been a lot of fun,” Glass said. “We went from being a team that was trying to make the playoffs to a real threat. It’s a great group of guys, and I I like our chances.”
Jonathan Toews didn’t make the trip to Winnipeg, meaning he missed the last eight games of the season with an upper-body injury. He finished with a career-low 20 goals, one fewer than he had last season.