For Power Dodge Estevan Bruins Assistant Coach Aren Miller, the Humboldt Broncos bus accident was all too familiar.
Flash back to 1997 when Miller was the starting goaltender for the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League, the team was on their way to Tri-City after a Sunday afternoon game in Calgary when the team bus skidded off the highway, and rolled down a 40-foot embankment near Cranbrook, B.C.
Although all 21 members of the team walked away from the accident, it's something that has lived inside of Miller's memory since that night in January of 1997.
"Everyone was enjoying a movie and hanging out, we hit some black ice just outside of Cranbrook and our bus driver Bob Mitchell got the bus back on and everyone gave him a rousing cheer, and all of a sudden we went over, and rolled one and a half times and hit a pole on our way down the hill," Miller said while visiting the Broncos crash site on Friday night.
When news broke that the Broncos were involved in a serious bus accident on their way to game five of the SJHL semi-final in Nipawin on Friday, April 6, memories of that night in 1997 hit Miller quite hard. With thoughts of the past on his mind, and the connection to the Broncos accident close to his heart, Miller shared a very candid post on the Estevan Bruins Twitter page, which showed his raw emotion involving his experience with Spokane's accident.
"It's something you never forget, it's definitely triggered some bad memories and the reason I put that out, is because I was having a really hard time with it and I know I reached out, and was reached out to by guys that were having a hard time," Miller explained. "I heard from a lot of guys that were having trouble and I wanted them to get help too, so that's why I put that out, cause I knew there was guys that I talked to that wouldn't go for help, so they needed that little bit of encouragement. So I thought if I went public with it, they would help some other guys go for help if they need."
Just like the Bruins got right back on the bus on Friday night, Miller and his Spokane Chiefs did the same thing, in an effort to move forward and continue to healing process.
"The biggest thing for us in Spokane was the next day we got back on the bus and we were fine, guys were nervous but it's just like anything, you get bucked off the horse you get back on. Hat's off to all the bus drivers out there who do a great job, but I don't think this can discourage families from not putting their kids on a bus to go play hockey or on a band trip or anything else, it happens everyday. This was a tragic event but it can't stop people from doing what they do."
The power of healing is in the game...That was a statement which was released by the Humboldt Broncos organization following the SJHL's decision to move forward, and have the Estevan Bruins take on the Nipawin Hawks in the league finals. The statement couldn't be more true, as Miller spoke about the teams feeling, heading into an emotional championship series.
"Lets win it, lets honour these guys and play our hardest. They're never going to be forgotten and that's the main thing, but we have a chance to play and I think all these guys have earned the right to be here.
"There was a line up like we've never seen in town before," Miller said of ticket sales at Affinity Place on Friday morning. "I think people want to get back to some normalcy, and get back to the rink and get cheering again."