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Two unspeficied Portland players had close friends die in junior hockey team bus accident, Coach Mike Johnston says

Two Portland Winterhawks players had close friends die in the Friday bus accident in Saskatchewan involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. The crash claimed 15 lives and injured 14 others.

Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston, while declining to identify the players, said two members of his team had close friends die in the crash involving a tractor-trailer and the Humboldt team bus.

Counselors were made available on Saturday for Winterhawks players, and the team discussed the tragedy at its morning meeting, according to Johnston.

Winterhawks coaches learned of the accident shortly before Friday's game at Everett. 

"It hits home because we do travel so much on a bus," Johnston said. "It was a sickening feeling. You feel it as a person in hockey who travels on buses, but more so as a parent. Your heart goes out to those families."

The Humboldt team was traveling to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game when the accident occurred at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

On Saturday, the Winterhawks released a statement of support for those impacted by the accident. It read:

"The entire Portland Winterhawks organization is deeply saddened by the heartbreaking news of the tragic bus accident involving members of the Humboldt Broncos.

"The Winterhawks send our deepest sympathies to the Broncos organization, their families, their friends, and entire Humboldt community. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been touched by this horrific tragedy."

The club plans to honor the victims prior to the start of Game 3 of its series with Everett, which takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

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