CEDAR RAPIDS — From now on, he’ll think twice about his team taking a trip. Probably three times.
If the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders have to postpone a game because of iffy travel conditions, so be it. It’s better to err on the side of caution.
There’s no question about that.
“Over the years, as far as poor conditions, for the road games you always want to do your best to get there to help the team that has a home game, right?” RoughRiders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson said Monday afternoon. “But I will tell you that I look back at a few trips that I probably wouldn’t take again.”
The news that 15 members of a junior team in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, died Friday night in a horrific accident involving their team bus and a semi truck stunned the hockey community. And Carlson.
This is a guy who has coached the RoughRiders in over 1,100 games, half of those on the road. He has been to Humboldt. Carlson was very emotional after C.R.’s game Saturday night against Sioux City, saying he really didn’t feel like talking about the game because of what had happened in Canada.
“I saw the news after our game Friday night in Sioux City, and all I said was ‘No. No,’” Carlson said. “I just think it’s really hard to understand. There are so many things that run through my head. Junior hockey is really like nothing else. You are on these buses in the winter months and traveling long distances. Getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning sometimes. It’s just devastating.”
He can relate to you plenty of travel-woes stories from his 19 seasons here. Within the past month, for instance, a trip to Michigan was delayed because the team bus got a flat tire.
But that’s nothing compared to this.
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“You worry about it all the time,” Carlson said. “We have great drivers, we trust our drivers. But, for me, when you are the coach, you are responsible for every single player and every single staff member. There have been tons of times where I have woken up at 2:30 or 3 in the morning scared because it’s kind of always on your mind. It’s just something that I have thought about a lot.”
The RoughRiders are holding a fundraiser Wednesday night for Humboldt. Players will be working at Culver’s restaurants in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha from 4 to 8 p.m., with fans invited to dine, with the players available to pose for photos and sign autographs.
Ten percent of food sales will be donated to Humboldt’s Go Fund Me account to aid families of team players, coaches and staff. As of Monday, over $4 million already had been raised worldwide.
Katie and Tyler Sturtz are part owners of the local Culver’s and have been billet parents for RoughRiders players over the years.
“I think it’s fair to say everybody will think a little bit differently about travel,” Carlson said. “We all know we have the responsibility of all the young men and the staff. When you see something like this, I just think it’s human nature that you think even harder about it. If a game has to be postponed and fans have to come back, so be it.”
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