A funeral was held Wednesday afternoon for a Humboldt Broncos forward who’s being described as a great leader on the ice and an even greater guy off it.
Conner Lukan, who was 21, was one of 16 people who died after a transport truck and the Saskatchewan junior hockey team’s bus collided on April 6.
His memorial was held at the Gathering Place in his hometown of Slave Lake.
Loved ones recalled how he tore around on quads, roughhoused with his friends and, of course, played hockey.
But Lukan was remembered at his funeral Wednesday as someone who also knew the ins and outs of the romance reality show The Bachelor.
“He was tough when he needed to be,” recalled Kevin Garinger, who, along with his wife Kathy, billeted the 21-year-old forward during his time with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team.
“But with his family and friends, he was kind and gentle.”
He loved animals, except for squirrels.
WATCH: Conner Lukan’s uncle jokes about nephew’s dislike of squirrels
His friends called him a guy who could make your troubles disappear with a chat and a cup of coffee.
And his coaches said he was a quiet leader, who knew when to demand more from his teammates and when to lead by example.
“Conner was all-in as a teammate and person,” said Mike Ringrose, who coached Lukan when he played midget hockey in St. Albert. “Thoughtful, honest and incredibly sincere.”
Toby Boulet, whose son Logan also died in the crash, recalled how Lukan blocked five shots during a single penalty-killing shift, tightened his skate laces on the bench to hold down the swelling, then went back out on the ice.
“Tighten your laces” hung on a banner in Broncos yellow-and-green outside the Gathering Place church in Lukan’s hometown of Slave Lake, Alta. About 700 people came to say goodbye.
Watch: ‘You were a brother’: Humboldt Broncos’ Brayden Camrud remembers Conner Lukan
His obituary said he moved from Slave Lake to Spruce Grove, Alta., at the age of 13 to pursue his passion. He would play for three seasons with the Spruce Grove Saints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League before joining the Broncos last year.
The Garingers said it was love at first sight as Lukan made several trips from his car on the first night he arrived at their home.
“He was only supposed to be there for a night or two, but he was settling in for the long haul,” Kathy Garinger recalled.
“Kevin (kept) saying over and over, ‘He’s such a great kid. Isn’t he a great kid?’ And, finally, ‘Can we keep him?”’
Her husband recalled how kind Lukan was to a family of Syrian immigrants whose kids “would not leave him alone.”
“He was the uncle they were missing from their homeland.”
Watch: Spruce Grove shinny game played in honour of Parker Tobin and Conner Lukan
When the kids were learning to skate, he said, they tried to skate just like Lukan.
“He was so kind to them and was patient with their constant bombardment of his time and space.
“They adored him.”
Kathy Garinger said the memory of the young man who chatted with her in the kitchen, stacked coffee cups in his room and blended a gracious manner with a wicked grin will never leave.
“One day we will stop listening for him to come home,” she said.
“We will never forget this young man who came to us for a season but will stay with us forever.”
Watch: Logan Boulet’s father holds round of applause for Conner Lukan
Boulet told the crowd that everyone deserves a standing ovation at least once in life.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Conner Lukan,” he prompted.
Everyone leapt to their feet. The applause was loud and long.
WATCH: Country music star Paul Brandt performs “Small Towns and Big Dreams” at a celebration of life for Humboldt Broncos’ Jaxon Joseph, Logan Hunter, Parker Tobin and Stephen Wack at Rogers Place in Edmonton.