Ten players on the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team roster call Alberta home. Several young men from the Edmonton area were killed in a horrific crash with a semi-truck on Friday in Saskatchewan.
A total of 15 people died following the crash on Highway 35, according to the RCMP. Fourteen others were injured — three were in critical condition. RCMP have not released the names of those involved, nor specified whether they are coaches, players or drivers.
RCMP said 29 people were on the bus at the time of the crash, including the driver.
Ten players from Alberta are listed on the Broncos’ roster.
Jaxon Joseph, from Edmonton, was killed in the crash, sources told Global News. He was the son of former Edmonton Oiler Chris Joseph.
The Oilers Entertainment Group said it had been rocked by the immense loss of life and injury.
“We are also mourning for our dear friends Chris and Andrea Joseph on the passing of their son Jaxon and our dear friends Scott and Laurie Thomas on the passing of their son Evan. The boys and their teammates will forever be in our thoughts and prayers,” OEG said in a statement.
Stephen Wack, from St. Albert, Alta., was also among those killed.
Alicia Wack, Stephen’s cousin, told The Canadian Press he did not survive the crash.
The 21-year-old had played with the Broncos for two seasons.
“He was a tremendous young man,” said Bob Simmonds, who first met Wack working as a hockey scout. “All of us in the hockey community, we’re devastated.”
Simmonds said he got to know the whole Wack family quite well and that Stephen was an amazing older brother.
“At first, we got to know him as a hockey player. As the whole situation unfolds, you get to know the family and … how special Stephen was as a young man.”
Logan Hunter, from St. Albert, Alta., also died in the collision, loved ones have confirmed to Global News.
Conner Lukan, from Slave Lake, Alta., died in the crash, a close family friend said.
“He enjoyed life. He was always having fun with his friends and he enjoyed hockey — loved it — and that’s what he was pursuing,” TJ Foster said.
Foster grew up with Conner.
“His dad and my dad grew up together and they were best friends so we were close family friends,” Foster said. “We’d go tubing on the lake or play golf. They’d be over at our place or we’d be over at ours.
“They were part of the family so it’s pretty tragic.”
Foster said the Lukan family has already suffered a devastating loss.
“His dad had been through something like this before. He lost his brother, going to a hockey game and that’s why (Conner) wore number 12. He was a great kid.”
Watch below: Slave Lake hockey player Conner Lukan was killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash Friday. Close family friend TJ Foster shares memories of Lukan with Quinn Phillips.
Another player, Logan Boulet, is on life support and will be donating his organs overnight Saturday, according to his family.
Joseph, Wack, Hunter and Lukan spent time playing in the St. Albert Raiders hockey club.
“This is shocking news for us,” president Kevin Porter said on Saturday afternoon. “We all watched these kids grow up and all of a sudden … They’re very young, they’re in the prime of their lives — next thing you know we hear about this sudden accident. It’s tragic.”
Watch below: Two Edmonton-area hockey players remained in hospital in Saskatoon Tuesday following the crash involving the Humboldt Broncos team bus. Jack Haskins has an update on their condition.
Former Canadian hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser knew a couple of the players on the team that didn’t survive.
“Hearing their names, you just think of all the players that you interact with through the years and all the families that you meet.
“This team wasn’t just from Humboldt; there were players from Slave Lake, from Airdrie and from all around. Hockey is a small world there are six degrees of separation between all of us in the game and everyone is connected to someone who knows someone.”
A photo showing three players holding hands while lying in side-by-side hospital beds was shared on Twitter by RJ Patter early Saturday. He’s the father of Derek Patter, a Broncos player from Edmonton.
“Derek, Grayson and Nick bonding and healing in hospital,” RJ wrote.
Graysen Cameron of Olds, Alta. and Nick Shumlanski of Tisdale, Sask. are listed on the team’s roster.
The Spruce Grove Saints said their thoughts and prayers were with the Broncos, the community and the families.
“The loss is devastating, and our team is in shock as we come to terms with this tragic accident,” GM Rob Sklaruk said. “We want to thank the first responders and medical teams involved in this tragedy. Hockey is a tight-knit community and this has affected everyone deeply; we send our sincere condolences to all the hockey families in this very difficult time.”
A spokesperson for the Drayton Valley Thunder Junior A hockey family said Tyler Smith, who played for the team last season, was hurt in the crash.
“Tyler is a young man who loves hockey and plays the game with passion. He is a team player and a stand-up guy,” Cindy Waronek said.
“We wish Tyler a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back on the ice playing the game he loves so much.”
Head Coach Darcy Haugan
The head coach of the Broncos, Darcy Haugan, is among the dead.
His wife Christina George-Haugan confirmed his death to The Canadian Press.
Mike Fosty worked with Haugan for 10 years as part of the North Peace Navigators before Haugan took a position with the Broncos.
“He was a terrific mentor to the young men who went through our program. He is just one of those character type of guys you find in the hockey world.”
Fosty called Haugan a “straight shooter” who made great things happen for the teams he worked with.
“He was very successful here. In 12 years as head coach and GM, he directed the organization to a league championship 10 times, won five league titles, directed the team to eight provincial tournaments, won three bronze, one silver.”
Fosty said he’s been talking with other members of the Alberta hockey community about Haugan and the impact he had.
“The outpouring of support for this man is just tremendous … We became very close friends. I thank him for what he brought to my coaching, what he’s taught me.
“My heart is truly, truly broken right now and I truly feel for Darcy’s family right now.”
Watch: Friend of Humboldt Broncos coach says ‘heart just sank’ about Saskatchewan bus crash, deaths
A former play-by-play announcer for Humboldt also shared memories of Haugan.
“Darcy was such a neat guy. He was quiet but had such a sense of humour,” Randy Merkley said. “We had lots of good times together in Peace River — where he’s from — and in the summers we golfed a lot together.
“He’s just a really humble guy. And has two boys that he left behind under 10 years old. It’s just devastating … My heart breaks for Christina and the boys. You can’t even comprehend when something like this happens.”
Broncos president Kevin Garinger said the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team includes players from Edmonton, Slave Lake and Airdrie in Alberta, and from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Garinger said the Broncos are a close-knit team from the small city of about 6,000 people 110 kilometres east of Saskatoon.
More reaction pours in
A spokesperson for the Edmonton Oilers said the team would hold a moment of silence before Saturday’s game.
“Oilers and Canucks players will wear a special helmet decal in support of the team and community,” the OEG said in a statement. “There will also be a special, stylized Oilers logo in support of the Broncos on display on the scoreboard throughout the game as a show of support.
“OEG is also making a donation of $25,000 on behalf of our staff, players, alumni and Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation to support the families impacted by the tragedy.”
Watch: Boris Rybalka, coach of the Camrose Kodiaks, talked to Global Edmonton about playing for the Humboldt Broncos in the 1980s.
In a statement on Saturday, Premier Rachel Notley said Albertans were grieving with the family and friends impacted by the horrible crash.
“This tragedy has rocked the Prairies and our entire country. Young men from Alberta, Saskatchewan and across Western Canada play for the Broncos, and even more have dreamed of playing for the Broncos.
“Hockey communities unite our country. We are a family, and we support you.”
Watch below: Calgary Flames react to Humboldt Broncos fatal bus crash in Saskatchewan
“Countless young athletes and their families travel our highways on those buses, going from game to game or tournament to tournament. It is a core part of life on our prairies. While we can only imagine your pain, it’s heartbreaking.
“As we learn more about what happened, may we also learn more about the incredible people we have lost. Dedicated athletes, strong young Canadians, respected community leaders and, above all, people loved by their families and friends.”
Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman called the crash one of the worst tragedies in Canadian history.
“I understand that a family in Lethbridge is directly affected and I’d like to let them know that they are in our thoughts and we will provide support to them as much as they need throughout this terrible situation.”
Spearman said hockey is such a big part of communities across Canada.
“This could have happened to any community. All I can say is, here in Lethbridge, what we’re going to do is take a time out to remember those families and those who are directly affected tonight, we’ll have a period of calm and certainly we want to reflect on how we can support them.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson called the incident heartbreaking.
“This hits home. There are families still waiting to hear news, friends still waiting to hear news. It’s heart-wrenching for Edmontonians and from across Northern Alberta and all across western Canada.”
In a post on Facebook, P3 Sports Inc. said ice time was booked at the Cochrane Arena Saturday from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. to rally the hockey community “to raise money for another hockey community that has lost so much.”
The $5-per-person skate will raise funds for the Humbolt Broncos gofundme initiative.
Since it was created Friday night, the fundraising campaign has collected more than $850,000 as of Saturday at noon. As of 5:30 p.m. Saturday, it had grown to $1.8 million.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is a Junior ‘A’ hockey league under Hockey Canada, which is part of the Canadian Junior Hockey League. It’s open to North American-born players between the age of 16 and 20.
— With files from Global’s Phil Heidenreich and Marney Blunt and The Canadian Press