The crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team’s bus and a semi-truck along Highway 35 in rural Saskatchewan on April 6 hit close to home for Debbie Dillon.
Her son Brenden played defence for the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, and he travelled countless kilometres on the team bus during his stint with the Tbirds from 2007 to 2011.
Now 27, Brenden has since graduated to the highest professional level the sport can offer, and is playing in the second round of the NHL playoffs as a member of the San Jose Sharks.
Brenden’s bus trips these days are relatively brief, usually consisting of short jaunts between airports, hotels and arenas.
But the crash, which killed 16 people (the majority of whom were Broncos players) and injured 13 others impacted Debbie and others like her, who have had loved ones who ride team buses in all kinds of weather to play the game they love.
“The Thunderbirds did their road trip through Saskatchewan,” Debbie said. “Every second year they bused from Seattle all the way through to Manitoba.”
To help provide comfort for those affected by the crash, Debbie along with nine fellow members of the Langley Quilters’ Guild gathered April 24 to sew four ‘community quilts’ for the people of Humboldt.
“We made them at my house,” Dillon said. “We started at 11 (a.m.), we finished at 10 (p.m.).”
Quilts made up of green, gold, and black patches are being sewn and delivered to all those impacted by the crash, including first responders.
“The local quilters of Humboldt and Melfort will be making a player’s quilt for each of the 29 players/staff or families of players/staff that were on the bus,” it says on the Quilts for Broncos Facebook page.
“The call for quilts comes for the others impacted by the events, including: billet families, first responders, EMT, RCMP, Fire, Broncos staff and board members, and many others impacted in the communities of Humboldt and Tisdale.”
Lana Kettley was among the quilters who took part in the marathon, 11-hour quilting bee for Humboldt.
“Everybody has kids and grandkids who have sat on those buses,” Kettley said. “I come from a town up north with 6,000 people. Your whole winter is tied up with the arena and the hockey. It’s huge.”
“We just can’t imagine what their parents are going through,” Dillon said.
Once the quilting and finishing is completed, the quilts will be shipped to Humboldt in early May.
Community quilts distributed locally
Creating ‘community quilts’ is nothing new for the Langley Quilters’ Guild, which is made up roughly 230 active members.
President Lorraine Skelton said the guild distributes between 250 and 300 handmade quilts each year to several services and organizations including Victims Services and Ishtar Transition Housing Society.
“It just makes you feel good,” Skelton said. “The fires in Kelowna, they’ve received quilts, (those affected by the wildfire) in Fort McMurray (have received quilts).”