A community rink in Leduc, Alta. was filled with “Smith” jerseys on Thursday night in support of Tyler Smith, a Humboldt Bronco who survived the April 6 bus crash.
A close family friend planned a special hockey game to bring everyone together to rally behind Tyler and uplift him and his family during this difficult time.
Friends and former coaches and teammates of Tyler gathered at the Leduc Recreation Centre for the skate.
“It started out as just a Midget triple A practice and it’s evolved into so much more,” organizer Ami Gagnon said. “The community support has been tremendous. We’ve now turned it into an LJAC (Leduc Junior Athletic Club) alumni game … there’s probably 42 of them.
“They’re all going to have a scrimmage and we’re going to do this in support of Tyler.”
Players wrapped their sticks in green and yellow tape — Broncos’ colours — and donned Humboldt decals or put stickers on their helmets that read #SmittyStrong.
“The silent auction, the T-shirt and hat sales — hopefully they’re successful and we’ll be able to provide the family with some funds to help with his recovery and healing,” Gagnon said.
A late addition to Thursday’s roster surprised everyone. Tyler himself took to the ice and greeted every player before the puck dropped.
Many people were moved to tears and a lot of hugs were handed out before Tyler sat back down in a wheelchair to watch the game.
“I can’t even explain to you the amount of community support we’ve received,” Gagnon said. “It’s not surprising. He’s a wonderful human being.”
Sixteen people died following the crash and 13 others were injured. As of Thursday, six of the survivors remained in hospital; two still in critical condition.