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SJHL playoffs still a go

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League will resume playoffs with the blessing of the Humboldt Broncos.

The league was in the difficult position of deciding what to do after the Broncos team bus collided with a semi truck Friday, killing the head coach and 10 players among the 16 fatalities, and injuring 13 others.

The Broncos were travelling to Nipawin for Game 5 of their semifinal series against the Hawks when the crash occurred at an intersection north of Tisdale.

The SJHL's 12-member board of governors voted unanimously Wednesday in favour of resuming the post-season, league president Bill Chow said.

The Hawks and Estevan Bruins will play for the league's championship trophy, the Canalta Cup, in a best-of-seven series starting Saturday in Nipawin.

"With Humboldt being very positive about continuing the season, I think that made the decision going forward a lot easier," Chow told The Canadian Press.

The Hawks and Bruins will wear stickers on their helmets in the final series in honour of the Broncos, Chow said.

Humboldt's team president was adamant the playoffs should continue.

"That love of hockey can take us a long way in terms of helping us through the healing process," Kevin Garinger said. "Hockey is healing."

The father of Broncos defenceman Ryan Straschnitzki, who was badly injured in the crash, said his son feels the same way.

"He said, 'You know what, you guys got to continue. We're athletes. We don't stop. We carry on. Let's go. Let's play,'" Tom Straschnitzki said.

The Hawks were up 3-1 in their best-of-seven semifinal against the Broncos when the crash occurred Friday. Humboldt had lost 6-5 in triple overtime at home two days earlier.

Estevan closed out its semifinal series Friday against the Battlefords North Stars. The Bruins were awaiting a decision on whether they would play for a championship this season or not.

"To me, if you don't play there's a giant, gaping open wound," Bruins coach and general manager Chris Lewgood said.

"The people that lost their lives did so doing what they love to do. I have no doubt the majority of them would want these guys to carry on and do so at the best of their ability. It's going to be a tragedy whether we continue or not. We can't fix anything by not playing hockey.

"If I were the coach that was killed in that accident, I would want to see those guys move on and make the most of their opportunity to move forward and make the best of a really bad situation."

Despite the devastation to the Broncos organization, Garinger wants Humboldt to ice a team in the SJHL in 2018-19.

"We're going to continue right now to support our families and our loved ones," he said. "It's imperative right now that our energies are focused there.

"We know that hockey is critical for our Humboldt Broncos family. We know that moving forward, it will take time but we fully expect that the Humboldt Broncos organization will be part of the 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League schedule."



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