HUMBOLDT, Sask. - The Humboldt Broncos hockey team is facing off with its own league over the #HumboldtStrong slogan and several others related to the fatal bus crash last month.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has applied to trademark the phrases, but the team said those who have suffered most from the tragedy should benefit from the phrases associated with it.
"The Humboldt Broncos' focus and priority remains, as it has from the very beginning, on supporting the families," Broncos president Kevin Garinger said in a statement Monday.
"That means, in part, working with our families directly ... to together protect the 'Humboldt Strong' legacy that has emerged in the wake of the loss of our loved ones, and for those whose lives have been changed forever."
The phrase #HumboldtStrong popped up on social media soon after the April 6 crash, which killed 16 people and injured 13 others when the team bus and a semi-truck collided at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.
People rallied around the team, raising more than $15 million in a GoFundMe campaign for survivors and the families of those killed. They also showed support for the Broncos by putting hockey sticks on porches, wearing jerseys and memorial ribbons, and holding other fundraisers.
Within weeks, the league applied to trademark the phrase, as well as seven others associated with the tragedy including #sticksontheporch.
Bill Chow, president of the league, said they applied on April 20 to make sure the brands were protected.
"I thought it would be important that somebody have control, if possible, of those trademarks," he said Monday. "Because the league already has control of proprietary rights and broadcast rights for all of the teams in the league, I thought this might be something the league would take under its umbrella as well.
"At some point in time, the Humboldt Broncos could do what they want to do with it."
Chow said he's hopeful they can clear up any concerns being raised by the Broncos.
"I don't think it's the intention of the other teams or the league to try to make any money off of this."
A few days after the collision, the junior hockey league partnered with 22 Fresh, a Regina-based clothing company, to sell #HumboldtStrong T-shirts. They said the proceeds would go to an assistance program created after the crash to provide support to its players.
The Broncos organization said they haven't endorsed those fundraising efforts.
"Any suggestion that the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's fundraising efforts are supporting or endorsed by the Humboldt Broncos is misinformed," said Garinger in the statement. "To date, the SJHL has not directed any funds they have raised, whether through direct solicitation or merchandise sales, to the Humboldt Broncos organization."
He said they will try to resolve the issue with the league and its board of governors.
— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton