Humboldt……

Bus accident.

My heart sinks every time I hear that phrase.

Heard it last Saturday.  More often than not it seems that phrase is tied to an athletic team traveling to or from a destination.

14 dead (at that time). 

Hockey team.

Wait, what?

Kids with their whole lives in front of them just chasing a dream of playing hockey as long as they can.

A couple stories.

One of the first years I was working at Dordt I got a call on a Friday night in the winter.  One of my aunts called my mom and swore she had heard a bus from Dordt was in an accident and someone had been killed.

I called then athletic director Rick Vander Berg and told him. 

Silence.

“I better make some calls,” was all he said.

Turns out my aunt had misheard York College for Dordt College.  Easy mistake to make.

I called Rick back and the relief in his voice was clear, but, we both knew our counterparts at York were dealing with something neither of us wanted to deal with.

A second story was when I worked with Dave Schenk when he was coaching soccer and as my assistant in the sports information office.

Dave loved hockey.

I was learning.

At one point in his conversation he looked at me and said, “You just don’t know what hockey means to me as a native Canadian.”

He’s right.

Fast forward to this week.

Who, I thought, who could comment on this event.

Nate van Niejenhuis, current Blades coach came to mind.

Hockey lover.

Hockey coach.

Hockey dad.

Canadian.

And now he’s director of facilities and services which includes maintaining the vehicles we use to travel.

I asked Nate if he would comment on the thoughts went through his mind when he heard about this accident.

I’m saddened comments were needed.  I gained some insight into the impact of this event.

Mbyk

 HUMBOLDT……………

Inadequate.  That’s the best word I can come up with to describe how I feel about this whole situation. Decidedly inadequate, and very, very human.  I can’t even begin to comprehend the magnitude myself, but I’ll try and help you.  Texas and football – only all year, and the ENTIRE nation.

For Canadians, hockey is our identity.  It’s who we are, it’s what we do, it’s our National sport of winter, our hobby, our passion, our pursuit.

For Canadians, hockey is our identity.  It’s who we are, it’s what we do, it’s our National sport of winter, our hobby, our passion, our pursuit.

Humbolt, Saskatchewan is a small agricultural community, not unlike Sioux Center (about 6,000 people), or any other small prairie town.  The ice arena is a full blown event center that has stadium seating for just about 2000.

Hockey is the heartbeat of the community.  Hockey is the heartbeat of every Canadian community.

If you live in a village of 500 people, you have an ice arena and a curling rink – libraries and swimming pools are way down the list.  You either play, coach, referee, did at one time, or plan to in the future.  On Saturday night every Canadian household sits together in the living room watching Hockey Night in Canada on CBC.  Hockey permeates everything.

The Humboldt Broncos is a Junior A team – roughly the same level of play as our Sioux City Musketeers or Sioux Falls Stampede locally.  All young men between the ages of 16 and 20, each trying to make the step to the next level – dreamers.  They are each pursuing s a future in the sport they grew up loving, chasing a scholarship in the NCAA division 1, or possibly Major Junior – regardless the dream is the NHL.

In order to chase this dream, they leave home at 16 years old, live with a billet (host) family, attend high school in a strange town, pump gas at the local station.  The players belong to the town, it’s “our” boys, “our” team.  The kids aspire to be them, the adults remember when they were, and small town Canadian homes open their doors to host these young men and provide them a home, and a family so they can pursue their passion, and follow their dreams.  This is the hockey family.

I think about all the miles traveled in the dead of winter.

Hockey doesn’t get cancelled for snow, ice or cold – there are no weather delays – you just go.

Go and play.

Whether you live in the Canadian prairies, or the Midwest for that matter, the miles travelled are substantial, and the number of times the roads are bad, or the driver is tired, or….. I’m amazed at the number of miles our teams and groups and organizations travel each year here at Dordt – about 500,000 put on our fleet vehicles this year alone.  I’ve always been the player, the coach, the driver, the parent.

I’m amazed at the number of miles our teams and groups and organizations travel each year here at Dordt – about 500,000 put on our fleet vehicles this year alone.  I’ve always been the player, the coach, the driver, the parent.

Now I’m the guy in the office worrying about the folks on the road too.  I am genuinely amazed that tragedy doesn’t strike more often, or that when something does happen, it tends to be minor – a deer, a headlight, a bumper.  At Dordt, we don’t have a monopoly on God’s time, but He sure does ride along an awful lot.

At Dordt, we don’t have a monopoly on God’s time, but He sure does ride along an awful lot.

This past week Canadians and the greater hockey community were dealt a pretty stiff blow, losing 15 young, passionate, dreamers.  Young men pursuing their future with hope and optimism.

It hurts, a lot. It’s a shock, this isn’t supposed to happen.

What now?  Why?

That could have been us.

And of course the big one – where was God when THIS happened???

I don’t know.

Inadequate.

The thing is, everyone wants a neat, tidy answer.  Make it make sense, make it fit in my box of comprehension.

The thing is, everyone wants a neat, tidy answer.  Make it make sense, make it fit in my box of comprehension.  Atheists are thrilled they can prove God doesn’t exist, the Christians want to cleanly explain their faith and how God fits into this whole situation, and why everything is going to work out for the better.

Neither is accurate or fair.

Life is messy, living faithfully is trench warfare – get a helmet.

Life is messy, living faithfully is trench warfare – get a helmet.

We keep digging, we push on, we make the next road trip, we play the next game.  We do it with passion and we play with intensity and desire.  Why?  Because to live faithfully is to compete fiercely.  We are free to live without fear because we have nothing to be fearful of.

This is our truth as Christians, but it doesn’t stop the pain and hurt, nor does it take away the fear that is part of our nature.  That’s where God comes in – not on a white horse, not with a perfectly laid out plan, but in a dark alley, probably sitting in the overflowing garbage behind a dumpster.  That’s where we find Him because that’s where we need him most.

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