Newest Humboldt Broncos looking for healing through hockey
In a matter of weeks, the stands of the Elgar Petersen arena will be filled with fans once more as a new edition of the city’s beloved Humboldt Broncos take to the ice.
For the players filling the empty positions, the chance to don the green and yellow represents an opportunity for closure, and renewal.
Just over two months after their worlds were rocked by news of the Broncos bus crash, the phones of ten junior hockey players started ringing over the weekend with more unexpected news – they were selected from their respective SJHL teams in a dispersal draft to form the new core of the Broncos.
“I was kind of in shock, at first,”Notre Dame Hounds pick, Ahmed Ally, said. “It kind of sunk in, and it was super special.”
Ally is one of five Saskatchewan-born players selected in the dispersal draft, along with Kyle Sargent (Yorkton Terriers), Shane Hounsell (La Ronge Ice Wolves), Eric McNeilly, and Ayden Third (both Melfort Mustangs).
The 19-year-old winger helped organized a benefit game for fallen Bronco and former teammate Evan Thomas shortly after the crash, raising $27,000 in his memory.
The pair played together with the Moose Jaw Generals for the better part of two seasons. On a team dominated by Moose Jaw locals, Ally recalls Thomas was a natural fit.
The pair made the jump from midget teammates to junior ‘A’ opponents, though their friendship never wavered.
“He was unreal,” Ally recalled. “You could go to him for anything, he was always just a phone call away… The late nights, 2 a.m. picking me up, we’d head to McDonald’s and talk about anything. Little things like that will always be up there in my memory.”
For Carlyle, Sask.’s Kyle Sargent, the opportunity presents a chance to heal through hockey as his junior career comes to a close.
“Honestly, for myself, it still doesn’t feel real,” Sargent said. “I think it will set in a little more once the season gets going to realize they’re actually gone. It still feels like a nightmare.”
The veteran blue-liner is entering his final year of junior hockey eligibility and said the chance to play for something bigger than a trophy is driving his off-season training to a new level.
“I want to be a good leader for the younger guys,” he added. “There’s going to be some guys that need support throughout the year, so I’m going to be there for anybody that needs that.”
Meanwhile, the youngest player in the dispersal draft will be fighting for his spot on the roster in memory of his former teammate Adam Herold.
At only 16-years-old, Ayden Third could be considered more of a prospect than full-fledged SJHL player, but the defenceman is still eager for the opportunity.
“I just want to try my best, make my family proud,” Third said. “All my friends and family, play for them, and play for Adam.”
While the newest Broncos aren’t sure what the coming season will bring, they vow every game will be played for those who were lost, those still recovering, and a community still coming to terms with the tragedy. However, one thing is certain – it’ll be nice to be on the good side of the notoriously passionate fan base.
“I think it’s going to be crazy- lots of love and lots of support,” Ally added. “It’ll give them maybe a bit more strength and help us as well, everyone can cope and try to move on.”
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