Carli Berry/Capital News A sign reading Humboldt Strong was held by residents at a vigil honouring the Humboldt Broncos Thursday at Prospera Place.

Grief and support for Humboldt in the Central Okanagan

Clad in hockey jerseys, hundreds gathered in points across the Central Okanagan to pay tribute

Clad in hockey jerseys, hundreds gathered in points across the Central Okanagan to pay tribute to the 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos killed in last week’s bus crash.

At a vigil in West Kelowna and another in Kelowna, the names of those who died when the team bus hit a semi-trailer en route to a game in Saskatchewan last Friday were read aloud while men, women and children bowed their heads in grief and let their tears flow.

In Kelowna, members of the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy released green and yellow balloons into the sky, each representing a victim of the crash. Around 500 people attended the vigil at Prospera Place.

Donna Macdonell, a Kelowna resident who attended the vigil in Kelowna, belongs to a family of hockey players.

“My husband played hockey until he was 52. We’ve got a son, 46, who’s still playing hockey, his son is in minor hockey. We love hockey and of course this has just been devastating,” she said.

“We are overwhelmed with loss and grief,” said Rev. Don Richmond, at the second of two vigils he spoke at, before offering a prayer.

We are standing with you. #humboldtstrong

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Warriors’ head coach and GM Rylan Ferster pointed out that the tragedy plays on all the fears of parents who put their children on buses to play sports, as well as team members themselves.

It’s something he knows all too well.

Ferster was not only born and raised in the prairie province, he played with the Broncos as a 16-year-old rookie during the 1985-86 season.

He also played three years with the Nipawin Hawks, the team the Broncos were travelling to play in an SJHL playoff game when their bus collided with a truck.

“I’ve been on that road many times, I know exactly where it happened,” said Ferster, who was born in nearby Prince Albert, Sask.

“It’s been tough. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people back home. I know how I feel two provinces away and it’s just devastating. I’ve talked to a lot of people back home and they’re reeling, some of them can’t even talk about it.”

Support for those who are hurting nearby and afar is why the country banded together to grieve.

“We play together, we laugh together and we cry together,” said MP Dan Albas at the West Kelowna vigil for Humboldt Saskatchewan Thursday night.

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Liam Drager, 17 with the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy, releases a balloon into the sky to honour one of the many lives lost during the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last week during a vigil Thursday at Prospera Place. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

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