Everblades head into playoffs with heavy hearts

The Florida Everblades will head into the Kelly Cup Playoffs this week with heavy hearts.

It’s been a week since a bus crash in Canada took the lives of 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, and injured 13 more.

At Germain Arena, the Everblades are doing what they can to help with the healing.

“It’s a complete nightmare in the hockey world. In any world, really,” said player Michael Kirkpatrick.

“Our group put money on the board that we’re gonna be sending up to help out in any way we can, but the hockey community was devastated,” added Head Coach Brad Ralph.

Some members of the Broncos team who lost their lives were as young as 16, and who left family to pursue a dream of playing hockey.

That meant being taken in by host families, commonly known as billits, and being embraced by tight-knit communities.

“You get welcomed in by billit families and it’s your home away from home, and I know most players it’s their second family,” said player Matt McKenzie.

“Everyone knows each other. Everyone knows the players. Your presence in the community is huge. They’re very loyal fans,” added Kirkpatrick.

The fact that the tragedy happened on a bus—their safe haven—further twists the knife for the hockey community.

“Some of the best memories are made on the bus and some of the funniest times and some of the best times. There’s times where we lose games and it’s quiet after and we’re picking each other up on the bus,” said Kirkpatrick.

So with the Kelly Cup Playoffs upon them—and some potential bus trips—the Everblades are trying to keep perspective.

“It can happen to anyone,” said Kirkpatrick. “And I think that’s how it hits the hockey world so hard.”

Reporter:Andrew Keesee
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