Bringing the rail safety message to Canada’s hockey arenas

Operation Lifesaver is hoping a new campaign will make young hockey players think about more than just scoring goals and winning games. Starting January 15th, a new rail-safety ad campaign will appear on video screens in hockey arenas across the country. It’s based on the tragic story of 16-year-old Tristan Morrissette-Perkins—and its goal is to make young people think twice about trespassing on railway tracks.
In July 2017, Tristan was struck and killed by a passenger train near Cornwall, Ontario. He didn’t hear the train approaching as he was taking pictures on the tracks with his cousin and a friend. The other two boys were able to get off the tracks in time. Tristan was not.
Tristan’s death devastated the community of Dorval, Que., where he played competitive hockey. His former teammates talk about the effect his death had on them in a #STOPTrackTragedies video.
This new ad campaign in hockey arenas comes on the heels of the third annual Tristan Morrissette-Perkins 06 Tournament. The 4-on-4 hockey tournament is named after the young hockey player and the number he wore on the ice. It took place on December 28 and 29 at the Dorval Arena, attracting around 150 players.
Operation Lifesaver recently spoke to Tristan’s mother, Julie Morrissette, about what her son’s death has meant for the hockey community and their family—and why she is grateful that his story is being used to help save lives.
Why do you think it’s important that young people know about Tristan's tragedy?
I have gone to the location where Tristan was killed and I have walked below the bridge where he was hit. Even as an adult, it's only then that I realized that I could not hear the train until it was literally beside me—and I was not even on the tracks. Never in a million years would I have thought that it would have been that dangerous. If Tristan had not passed, I would have looked at those tracks and probably thought “Gosh, you have a long time to get off.” I think that Tristan’s story needs to be told to others for them to learn that you really don't have that time. Before you know it, you hear the train and it's there. It's very important to get that story out.
How did Tristan’s death impact the hockey community he was part of?
I can see that the boys are trying to do something to fill in that emptiness. I guess that's what I'm going to call it. They're hurt by it. I know that a lot of people—a lot of his friends—have had to seek help. It's been a tough road for them.
There are still a lot of friends that communicate with me. In fact, I met with five of the boys yesterday just to discuss the tournament and what it was about. You know, just to make sure that we remember the reason why we started the tournament.
What do you hope people take away from his video and this new ad campaign?
I just want to know that his life meant something and that it's going to bring life to others. I want them to think differently about train tracks. I want people to think about what they're going to do—and what can happen if they do it.
We have a pet store near our home and it's near the train tracks. The owner of the pet store told me “Julie, you have no idea how much that video impacted me...I was standing there and I could see kids playing on the track as I was serving a customer and I said, 'Excuse me, I'll be right back.’'' She literally walked across the street and started giving them trouble. She said, “Get off. Didn't you know that someone died doing this? Do you know what their family is going through?”
The day Tristan died is something that you don't forget. We didn't expect to get that phone call from my brother-in-law telling me that my son had been hit by a train. Or to see the cop car driving down in your street. And when he tells you that your son is gone, it knocks the air right out of you. You can no longer breathe, and your brain starts going a thousand miles an hour. Your daughter is there, dropping to her knees, screaming. Your husband is freaking out and all you keep thinking is that this can't possibly be real. And what do I do? What did I do wrong? You know? I would do anything to have him back here.