Mark Cross was in his first season as an assistant coach with the Humboldt Broncos when he lost his life in the bus crash that claimed the lives of 14 other members of the team.
The 27-year-old Strasbourg, Sask., native made the move to coaching after obtaining a degree in kinesiology and health science at York University, where he also spent five seasons playing for the Lions.
Prior to university he played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, spending the bulk of his career with the Estevan Bruins.
“He was a team leader. He was kind of that grinder guy but he had a lot of skill and great hands and he just always went out there and led by example. He was a great guy to have on the team,” said Joel Kot, who played with Cross in Estevan.
Fellow Bruins alumnus Kyle Stroh was Cross’s roommate during their time together on the team.
“He was just a down-to-earth, give the shirt off his back type of guy, the hardest worker I’ve ever met,” he said.
Both players are competing at the Allan Cup in Rosetown, Sask., this week, along with a handful of other former Bruins. Their pursuit of a national senior hockey championship is a welcome diversion as they continue to mourn the loss of their friend.
“He was kind of like a little brother to me and I kind of showed him the ropes a little bit. It’s tough. I couldn’t imagine what his family is going through and his girlfriend. Words can’t really describe it,” Stroh said.
As for Cross’s decision to join the coaching ranks, Stroh was not surprised.
“I know he wanted to give back and there was no better way than to coach these kids.”