After tragedy struck the hockey world last weekend, families in both Canada and the United States are honoring the lives lost in a show of united grief: they are leaving hockey sticks on their doorsteps.
On Friday, 10 junior hockey players from the Humboldt Broncos and five others, including two coaches, were killed when their bus collided with a tractor-trailer on their way to a game in Saskatchewan province.
Over the weekend, a wave of support for the victims, survivors, and their families began — everything from Niagara Falls to a doughnuts from famed Canadian coffee shop Tim Hortons sported the team's yellow and green colors.
On Instagram, posts using the hashtag #putoutyoursticks urged hockey fans and players to show their support and love by leaving hockey sticks out on their front doorsteps. Since the movement began, well over 21,000 posts have used the hashtag. Parents are posting the pictures of sticks on Facebook as well.
Hockey mom Mandi Glines, a first-grade teacher and mother of three from Maryland, told TODAY Parents her 14-year-old hockey playing son left his sticks out because, "Hockey is unlike any other sport. When something happens, it is felt by everyone who loves the game and is part of this big giant family, even if you have never met before."
Glines said that between her hockey-playing fiancé and her son, their family spends all year traveling and playing hockey. "We have made so many friends through this great game and we consider them family," she said.
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"Anything we can do to support and pay tribute to these boys and their families we want to do. This could have been any of our boys traveling to a game as we do every weekend," Glines said. "My son wanted to make sure that if one of his 'brothers' needed a stick up in heaven, he could find one on our porch."
Kristi Ashcroft, a Toronto mom of three hockey-playing boys, posted a picture of her sons' sticks on her social media accounts after her 11-year old, Jake, saw the posts on Instagram and suggested they do it too.
"It's been hard to explain why this tragedy has touched so many people — and maybe especially hockey families — so deeply," Ashcroft told TODAY Parents. "I think so many in the hockey community see themselves in that team, either in the rear view mirror or up ahead."
Ashcroft's sons play for hockey teams in Toronto and look up to players like those involved in the crash. "Many of our boys' coaches played junior hockey at some point, billeting with families and riding buses to games," she said. "For a lot of kids in Canada who play hockey and still dream of making the NHL, junior hockey is part of the path to the dream. My heart just aches for those boys and those families."
The tragedy is hitting kids like her 10-year-old son Charlie especially hard, Ashcroft said. While lining the sticks up outside their front door last night, he told his mom, "They never got a chance to see if their dreams would come true. It's hard to imagine that."