[Updated] SJHL to resume playoffs; partner with Country Thunder for benefit concert

Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League president Bill Chow holds back tears as he addresses the media on April 7, 2018 at Humboldt's Elgar Petersen Arena, a day after the Humboldt Broncos team bus was involved in a fatal collision with a semi-truck near Tisdale, Sask. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) will finish its season this year.

The rest of the league’s season was thrown into question last Friday with the tragic crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus, which killed 16 of 29 people on board.

TSN reported Wednesday that the league will continue its playoffs. The Nipawin Hawks, the Broncos’ opponents in their best-of-seven semifinal playoff series, will advance to the league finals to play the Estevan Bruins.

The league announced the news later on Wednesday after holding a conference call with representatives from each SJHL team, which forms the league’s board of governors.

League president Bill Chow said t that the decision to proceed with the remainder of the postseason was unanimous.

“We had a gruelling decision to make with respects on how we can pay tribute and honour the Humboldt Broncos,” he said in a press release. “On behalf of the Board of Governors, this intensive decision has been made and that decision is to carry through and finish off the 2017-2018 season. The league will play hockey.”

Games 1 and 2 in the series will be played this Saturday and Sunday in Nipawin, at 7:30 p.m. on both days. The series then shifts to Estevan for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday, also both at 7:30 p.m.

If necessary, Games 5 and 7 will be played in Nipawin on April 20 and 24, while Game 6, if necessary, will be played in Estevan on April 22. All game times are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

According to media reports on Wednesday, the Hawks took to the ice to practice; CTV Saskatoon reporter Pat McKay said Broncos assistant coach Chris Beaudry joined the Hawks on the ice.

“I think that hockey is important in our world, and it’s part of the healing process,” Broncos team president Kevin Garinger reportedly told the Canadian Press. “I think it’s important to recognize that it is part of the healing process for everyone involved in this tragedy.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Country Thunder Music Festivals announced that will holding a benefit concert later this month in Saskatoon to honour the Broncos.

Country Thunder vice president Ted Gross confirmed at a press conference in Regina on Thursday that the concert will be played on April 27 at the city’s SaskTel Centre.

“We all know about the tragic bus crash,” he said. “The owner of Country Thunder and our fans and hockey are linked … there’s a great bond there. What we thought one of the best ways to heal was music.”

Gross said some acts have been confirmed for the concert, but he couldn’t reveal who they are.

“We’ll add more details later next week.”

The other component out of Thursday’s press conference was Canadian Red Cross announcing it will launch an online evaluation tool to a help “the (SJHL) with psycho-social programming,” according to vice president Cindy Fuchs.

The online program will help players, families and everyone connected to the SJHL learning about the effects of stress and grief, both on themselves and on others, she said.

With files from Evan Radford and Peter Lozinski, Daily Herald