Metro

#PutYourSticksOut: People are placing hockey sticks outside to remember young Canadians killed in crash

Cathy Feely from Walpole placed sticks outside of her home to pay tribute to the youth players from the Humboldt Broncos who were killed in a crash last Friday in Canada.
Cathy Feeley
Cathy Feely from Walpole placed sticks outside of her home to pay tribute to the youth players from the Humboldt Broncos who were killed in a crash last Friday in Canada.

After playing two hours of hockey at the Pilgrim Skating Arena in Hingham on Monday nights, Kevin Schiffman typically comes home, airs out all of his sweaty gear, grabs a water, and then falls into bed out of sheer exhaustion.

But this week was different.

Instead of resting up for the workweek after going full bore on the ice, Schiffman, a lifelong hockey fanatic, took his playing stick, placed it on his front door step, turned on his porch light, and said a prayer. He left it there overnight.

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Like many across the country and in Canada, the 37-year-old Weymouth resident paid tribute to the members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team who were killed in a crash in Canada last week when a semi-trailer slammed into their bus as they traveled to a playoff game.

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People have come together to show their support for the victims and their families — and the hockey community at large — by sharing pictures of hockey sticks leaning against their homes on social media, using the hashtags #PutYourSticksOut and #HumboldtStrong.

“What I did was basically out of respect for the players, the team, and their families,” said Schiffman, who is part of the MA Hockey League, a pick-up league for adults. “Last night was a time to reflect.”

The gesture seems to have originated after Winnipeg Jets broadcaster Brian Munz on Sunday invited people on social media to follow in a friend’s footsteps and prop a stick against their homes overnight. The tweet was shared more than 6,000 times, and by Monday, the terms were trending on Twitter in Boston as more and more people joined the cause.

Schiffman said the crash in Canada, which killed 15 people traveling on the bus and injured many others, brought back memories of riding to games with the various teams he played for growing up, an experience he said brings players closer together.

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“We would travel near and far to play games,” he said. “Whether early in the morning or late at night, you’re always with your team. It’s kind of this bonding experience, in a way.”

The bus carrying the Humboldt team had 29 passengers on board, including the driver, when the crash occurred Friday evening, according to the Associated Press.

Even though the devastating incident happened thousands of miles from Massachusetts, the news staggered hockey fans and players here.

Emily Aisner has been playing hockey since she was four. She can’t imagine her life without the sport. So it was important for her to express her condolences following the horrific crash by positioning a pair of sticks outdoors in Boston for the Broncos.

“I’ve been traveling to games and practices my whole life, and you don’t always think about tragedies like this,” she said in a message to the Globe. “The hockey community truly is a family. I pray that Humboldt knows that the whole world is behind them, and that we are all grieving with them.”

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Tom DeCoste, an equipment manager for Harvard University’s women’s hockey team, said because team bus rides are “so important,” everyone in the hockey world “was sort of crushed to hear about the tragedy.”

Moved by the online sentiment to honor the victims, DeCoste went home Monday and wrote “Humboldt Strong” on one of his hockey sticks. He then leaned it against his doorway outside before standing for a brief moment of silence.

“I wanted to participate,” he said. “We’re not Canada, and we’re not Ontario, but I think Boston is a pretty strong hockey community.”

Somerville resident Collin Hogan also joined the cause, leaving his own hockey stick under the green glow of his porch light.

“Sticks out for the boys who need them most,” Hogan said on Twitter.

In a message to the Globe, Hogan said he has traveled on team buses hundreds of times, and it’s supposed to be a place where you don’t need to worry about the world around you.

“It’s a place to focus on the game and bond with your brothers. Hockey is a lot more than just a sport, it’s an escape from the real world,” he said. “Sad to see those kids will never get to skate their hearts out again.”

For Dan Dailey, a part-time assistant hockey coach at Hanover High School, the season may have ended, but the camaraderie he feels throughout the hockey community remains strong.

He saw the stick movement spreading on Twitter over the last few days, he said, and knew, as a coach familiar with long bus rides with his players, he had to do his part.

“If there are people connected to the tragedy reading this, I wanted them to know in Massachusetts we are thinking about them,” Dailey said. “I’m just thinking they’re going to swoop down from heaven and grab [the sticks] while we sleep.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.