With Alberta’s capital still struggling to come to terms with two shocking vehicle attacks in the city’s core over the weekend, the Edmonton Oilers’ home opener against the Calgary Flames was expected to put smiles on the faces of many Edmontonians who need a reason to do so.
But a surprise appearance at Rogers Place from the police officer many have hailed a hero for how he responded to Saturday’s attacks, provided more than a smile for the thousands in attendance, it set off an emotional roar of support for 48-year-old Const. Mike Chernyk.
“Through the violence, there were also numerous acts of humanity and heroism,” Oilers in-house announcer Scott C. Bourgeois told the crowd before the game started, adding the weekend attacks “shook us to the core.”
Watch below: WARNING: Video contains disturbing images. Edmonton police released security video showing a car ramming into a police officer and the suspect getting out of the vehicle to stab the officer.
“We offer our sincere thank you to citizens, first responders and our courageous members of the Edmonton Police Service for their actions and dedication to public safety.”
Bourgeois then introduced Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht who walked onto the ice before pausing and saying, “please join me in welcoming Edmonton’s hero, Canada’s hero, Const. Mike Chernyk.”
Chernyk, with a scar visible on his face, then walked out onto centre ice to stand next to the anthem singer for the singing of O Canada.
Chernyk did not speak, however, he acknowledged the crowd with a wave while the scoreboard displayed the message “We Stand United.”
On Thursday, Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht appeared on the Steele & Drex program on Vancouver radio station CKNW. He described an electric atmosphere when Chernyk was introduced to the crowd.
“It was quite overwhelming when I walked out there – the noise – and then of course when they announced Mike, what little hair I have, it blew it back,” Knecht said.
“It was physically jarring, the applause from the crowd.”
Knecht said it was a special moment for Chernyk, who went to the game with his daughter.
“It was a very emotional moment for him,” he said. “He’s a very humble guy… but he was just absolutely amazed by it.”
Listen below: Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht appears on the Steele & Drex program to talk about Const. Mike Chernyk and the weekend attacks in Edmonton.
Chernyk was the first victim of the two attacks on Saturday. While working at a roadblock outside the Edmonton Eskimos game at Commonwealth Stadium, he was rammed into by a speeding car, sending him flying through the air. Before he could try to get up, the driver of the car got out and ran towards him before repeatedly stabbing him.
“He was in a struggle for his life, holding on to his gun with one hand and blocking the knife with his other,” Knecht said earlier this week. “It’s a testament to his experience and training that he survived the confrontation.”
Watch below: Edmonton police offer details on terror attack, say officer released from hospital.
Chernyk was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries but has since been released from hospital. He suffered stab wounds to the face and head, as well as significant abrasions on his arms, but is expected to make a full recovery
Early Sunday morning, Edmonton police published a Facebook post thanking the public for their support for officers, especially Chernyk.
“We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. Our officer is safe and recovering,” the message read. “We are a strong city and we will get through this together.”
Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, is charged with five counts of attempted murder, five counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, one count of criminal flight causing bodily harm and one count of possession of a weapon.
Police allege he attacked Chernyk before fleeing the scene and later drove a U-Haul van through downtown Edmonton, deliberately striking four pedestrians. Despite some suffering serious injuries, all of the victims are expected to survive.