It's become a truism that Canadians are nice, polite and calm ... until someone puts a hockey stick in our hands.
And it's also true that it's something every boy and girl dreams of doing when first lacing up the skates, tottering onto the ice, falling flat on a backside: making it to the big time, maybe the Olympics or even the National Hockey League (until most, like me, they find they're pretty bad at the game).
That's why even I, a confirmed non-hockey follower these days, was stricken to learn that a bus full of Humboldt, Sask., Junior A players, coaches and officials on their way to a "must-win" playoff game Friday was broadsided by a transport truck on a lonely highway. Fifteen -- more than half of those aboard -- are dead, including coaches; others are critically injured.
It's hard not to be moved by such a tragedy, although God knows, it's happened before. And will again. It's a sad truth that the distances involved in junior hockey dictate hours on the road in winter conditions. It can be a crap-shoot.
Tributes and condolences for the Humboldt Broncos, their families, friends and those who billeted them in the town of 5,800 have poured in from across Canada and around the world, from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to President Donald Trump, to players, former players, coaches and just ordinary blokes like me.
A large number of those echoed the inevitable mantra "thoughts and prayers", but on a pragmatic level, a GoFundMe campaign had raised $2.5 million for the devastated families by Saturday evening. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, it is "the most successful Canadian campaign ever on the online fundraising site and among the Top 10 globally".
It may help offset funeral expenses and the like, but it will never replace those lives.
And those shattered dreams.