Detroit — There were a lot of important games to be played in the hockey world Saturday, on all levels.
But all anyone could think about was the terrible tragedy in northeastern Saskatchewan, where a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior team to a playoff game collided with a tractor-trailer, killing 14 people aboard the bus.
The tragedy resonated with Red Wings players, all hockey players, because of how much time they’ve spent on busses, traveling long distances to the next tournament, next game.
“Teams around the world, in every league, you go by bus,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “It’s part of being on a team. A lot of team bonding happens on the bus. It’s kind of your safe zone, that’s what it feels like when you are on (on the bus).”
But when you’re traveling in the winter, in the middle of the night, getting to the next destination, it can get a little hairy.
“In Guelph, (Ontario), everyone in the OHL takes a bus,” said forward Tyler Bertuzzi, recalling one scary incident. “I remember we were going to Owen Sound, in a snowstorm, and our bus kind of fishtailed. We were lucky enough to stay on the highway, but it’s scary.
“You know that can things can happen.”
Anthony Mantha recalled a treacherous drive while he was playing junior hockey in the Quebec junior league, a snowstorm through a wooded area, and seeing four automobiles in a ditch.
“When you are on your bus with your teammates, you play games, play cards, you don’t really pay attention to the roads,” Mantha said. “Some guys are sleeping, probably. Just thinking about it makes me a little sick a little bit.”
Coach Jeff Blashill addressed the Humboldt tragedy before his daily media scrum.
“I want to send my thoughts and my prayers to the Humboldt hockey team, to the community, the entire province of Saskatchewan,” Blashill said. “I spent lots of time up there recruiting in my time and I know how much that junior league is a fabric of that province.
“I’m a father and I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”
No decision yet
Bertuzzi said he has to yet to hear from the front office as to whether he’ll be sent back to Grand Rapids for the Griffins’ playoff run this spring.
Bertuzzi was the American League’s playoff MVP last spring while leading the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship.
“I haven’t heard anything yet,” Bertuzzi said. “You want to go try and win again but you want to stay healthy and have a good summer.
“There’s pros and cons both ways.”
Blashill decided to go with goaltender Jared Coreau Saturday against the New York Islanders to close the season, rather than usual starter Jimmy Howard.
Coreau entered Saturday’s game 0-5 with a 4.35 goals-against average and .859 save percentage in six appearances since being recalled after the Red Wings traded goaltender Petr Mrazek.
Coreau was placed on waivers Saturday, and if he clears by noon Sunday, will be assigned to Grand Rapids for the Griffins’ playoff run.
An unrestricted free agent, Coreau’s future with the Red Wings is hazy.
“We want to get as many looks at him as we possibly can,” said Blashill of the decision to start Coreau.