In the Alberta Female Hockey League and even the Bantam Elite league, all road games are bused to. There is no need to drive yourself to a game or find a ride, you show up and jump on the bus. You do not need to worry about addresses or being on time, how far the hotel is from the rink or what the quickest route is. You do not worry about the road conditions or weather. All of these worries are taken away from us and put on our lone bus driver.
In Lloydminster, our weight bearer is Milt Columbine, owner of Columbine Coachlines.
Him, along with his wife and a few drivers run five buses. Milt does most maintenance himself unless it is a safety issue, then he will send it to a shop to ensure the best safety for his passengers.
As a passenger and someone who tends to worry about things there is not a more trusted bus company than Milt and his crew. Long days, early mornings, weekends and holidays the drivers are always there for us. Without them we would not be able to make all the trips we do, yet the drivers often go unrecognized. In my five years, going on six, I have never had an issue with our drivers or their driving.
Of course, there are a few stories of bus issues, but nothing serious and we always made it to our games with time to spare! From Jasper to Portage La Prairie to Vauxhall to Grande Prairie, we were always met with a smiling driver and safe travels. Let's be honest a team full of teenage girls can’t be that easy to handle! We yell and we cry and we always blare the music too loud! We climb over seats, we sit in the aisle and we have even crawled in an overhead compartment! No matter what we are doing, how we are playing, or what we say we are always highly respected and taken care of. All the drivers are dedicated to every single player, parent, or fan that rides the bus.
On April 6, 2018, tragedy struck the hockey world. The Humboldt Broncos left an impact on everyone and will never be forgotten. But it wasn’t until chatting with Milt about the situation that I fully understand how deeply it hit everyone. I had sent Milt the following email:
Milt and his staff,
As another year has come to an end I have taken some time to reflect. Also with the Humboldt tragedy in mind I heartfully send this email. After five seasons and hopefully soon to be a sixth in Lloydminster, I have made it safely to and from every single game, tournament, and showcase. This is a huge detail that we always disregard. Us players arrive, pack our bags onto the bus and find our seats. We are often oblivious to road conditions, towns we pass and possible bus issues. Our drivers have always been helpful and polite, meeting us with a smile every time. One of the assets that set Columbine CoachLines apart from the rest is their willingness to be personal and go above and beyond for every passenger. From Tim Horton´s stops to later parent pick ups for our early games, the drivers were always so considerate. Full of laughs, homework, and the odd nap, bus rides are where many memories are made, but in the end we must be thankful for how lucky we truly are with the drivers and buses we have. Regardless of the Swift Current accident and the Humboldt tragedy I have and will always feel safe and place all my trust in Columbine Coachlines without a worry. Thank you for years of safety and awesome bus rides! We have no idea how fortunate we are.
Many, many thanks, Bella McKee
PWM Midget AAA Steelers
This past weekend I finally got to see Milt and we sat on the bus and had a chat alone. The man I hope to see everytime I step on a hockey bus or around the rink was sitting in front of me and tearing up as he mentioned Humboldt. His biggest fear as a driver had happened and it was a tough thing to handle. He told me of his fear, but he also quickly told me of his determination to put the fear away. He said that if he is scared everyone else on the bus will be scared as well, and he is not ok with that. Milt’s courage, strength and resilience is honourable.
As a hockey community I feel we need to do a better job acknowledging our bus drivers. They become part of our family and do everything to protect us and keep us safe. Milt, Ev and the drivers of Columbine Coaches, we thank you for your service with the teams around Lloydminster and the events such as the Twinkle Tour. To all the bus drivers: your courage is recognized, with Humboldt in our thoughts, we thank you for always keeping us safe. Thank you for being the barriers of the unseen weight our travel puts on your shoulders.