The accident site at a crossroads in rural Saskatchewan in which 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team were killed and 13 others injured. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Profiting from tragedy: poor judgement, misunderstandings and outright scams

The Humboldt Broncos tragedy: Hockey league latest to come under criticism

A small town hockey team from Humboldt Saskatchewan were travelling by bus to a match when a collision with a truck virtually wiped out the team.   The April 6 tragedy which left 16 dead, and 13 others with a variety on injuries, some permanent, shook the nation and indeed the world.

Funds were established to help the town, the individual families, and the Humboldt Broncos team deal with the tragedy.

The term Humboldt Strong, created to help the recovery became a common theme.

But almost as soon as the idea was created to show support, scammers began to show up to take advantage of the tragedy, and the nation’s sorrow and sympathy.

Just days after the tragedy the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League approached an apparel maker to design products featuring the slogan to raise funds for the league’s brand new Assistance programme to provide counselling and mental health assistance throughout the league. Photo: 22 Fresh

While legitimate fund-raising accounts were established, so to were scam accounts.

Tim Horton’s a fast food coffee and doughnut chain had to apologise after selling a doughnut related to the Broncos team and the accident while keeping all the profits.

Halifax editorial cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon drew this touching tribute, showing provinces as hockey players supporting Saskatchewan for its loss. Someone took the cartoon without authorization to sell for personal profit on T-shirts at $42.63. “To steal someone’s art and at the same time basically capitalise on this tragedy, on the misery of other human beings, is unconscionable,” MacKinnon told CBC Radio. Photo:

While clothing lines, eg hockey sweater styles, were created with “Humboldt strong” logos to be sold to benefit the families etc., almost immediately other similar styles cropped out to capitilize on the sympathy but for the makers personal profit.

An online search showed several dozens of designs for Humboldt Broncos merchandise an clothing with only one vender site saying a portion of the profits will go victim’s families.

The latest to come under fire is the Humboldt Broncos on hockey league.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL)  is trying to trademark the social media slogans #humboldtstrong   and #stickontheporch.

(The latter refers to a national demonstration of sympathy for the tragedy by leaving hockey sticks on the front porch. Sadly there have been many cases of the sticks being stolen as well.)

An ad-hoc national campaign to show sympathy for Humboldt and the team involved leaving hockey sticks outside the door and post photos for #sticksonthe porch. Here images from Prince Edward Island Photos: Jillian Power/Margaret Gallant/Andrew MacKay

Now the Broncos team organisation says it will fight its own league for the trademark rights.  They say the league made the move without any consultation at all with the team or community.

The league had said earlier that it would be protecting the league and the team from all the unofficial merchandise. SJHL president Bill Chow told CTV, “There’s just so much of that stuff out there. We thought we would try and get that protection”.

Humboldt Broncos president Kevin Garinger says the team is prepared to fight its own league, The SJHL for the rights to trademark the slogans #HumboldtStrong and #sticksontheporch, Photo: CBC

Kevin Garinger, president of the Broncos, was surprised and upset on hearing the news,  He was quoted by CTV news saying, “Ultimately, the trademark should sit and reside with the Humboldt Broncos and with the Humboldt community. The right thing is for us to hold the trademark”.

CBC saying, “”We have one goal and that is that that trademark, the rightful owners of it, are the Humboldt Broncos and the Humboldt community — and that’s what we will continue to fight for”.

He said shortly after the tragedy the Broncos and local community came up with the logos and should be considered the owners.

They’ve asked the league to withdraw it’s application, but apparently the situation will now involve lawyers.

In the meantime, a trademark agent says the process to register a trademark takes about a year, and in that interval trying to stop anyone from using it is very difficult.

Additional information –sources

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