By Melissa Garcia
LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – A player on the 2017-2018 season of a Canadian team involved in a deadly bus crash grew up playing on a hockey team in Colorado.
The Thunderbirds practice at The Ice Ranch in Littleton.
Matt Thielemann is a recent Highlands Ranch High School graduate who played with the Humboldt Broncos junior team in Saskatchewan through November.
CBS4 has learned that Thielemann was not on the bus when it collided with a big rig Friday afternoon.
Saturday, a friend of Thielemann told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia that the former player’s prayers were with the families of the lives lost.
“It’s very sad,” said A.J. Hodges, who currently plays on the Tier 1 AAA 16U Thunderbirds team.
Firefighters doused the smoking big rig Friday that collided with the bus carrying 29 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team in Canada.
“It just makes you think about what could happen to our team. And all the friends we’ve made on our team this year,” said Hodges. “The same thing could happen to us.”
The young players’ and their coaches’ days are often filled with long bus rides to games.
Angelo Ricci, Director of the Colorado Thunderbirds, remembers his days of traveling as a teen.
“We were always on I-80, and busing to games in Iowa and stuff. So I could see how the roads and the weather, obviously, can play a factor,” Ricci said.
For Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League’s Commissioner, Adrian Veideman, the deadly wreck hits too close to home.
“I grew up in British Columbia… We’re talking about a small community in Canada. It’s not a big city like Denver,” Veideman said of Humboldt. “[The crash] is heart-breaking.”
Colorado Avalanche players took a moment of silence at Saturday night’s game in solidarity with the Av’s Head Coach Jared Bednar’s home town.
“That’s a tough day,” Bednar said, fighting back tears. “That’s my home town, eh. So I grew up in Humboldt. My dad was stationed there twice. My childhood was in that city. So I grew up as a young guy dreaming to play for the Broncos.”
Bednar said he also knows the family of a Humboldt Broncos player who survived the crash.