“Brayden Camrud and Kaleb Dahlgren, I skated with them and work out with them throughout the summers and things like that. It’s something where it’s just down the road. It’s Saskatchewan you know,” the Saskatoon native said on Friday.
“I met him when I was 12 and that time, he was a pretty big deal – a pretty good hockey player and I always looked up to him a bit at the time, I was like ‘this guy’s really nice and I want to be like him,” Broncos crash survivor Kaleb Dahlgren said.
Nearly 10 years later, Dahlgren joined the 2018 NHL champion for a celebration in Humboldt.
“It’s snowballed for sure but for the right reasons. It’s not to get in the limelight or anything like that. I just wanted to do what I could,” Stephenson said.
“To give the community of Humboldt a day to come together and a day of happiness and just to see the Cup and hopefully put some smiles on people’s faces.”
WATCH MORE: NHL star Chandler Stephenson says Humboldt crash ‘hits close to home’
Present-day NHLers snapped pictures and signed autographs, bringing the big league to the small community of 5,000. A line snaked around Elgar Peterson Arena to see hockey’s Holy Grail as 4,000 people turned out.
The mayor of Humboldt said the trophy’s visit played a role in the community reaching a turning point on a long journey of healing.
“It does help. You can just see the kids here and everybody’s having a good time and enjoying themselves and that’s important,” Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said.
“All you can do is give your condolences and nothing can replace a life but you just do as much as you can to help and that’s what this day was all about,” Stephenson said.
The tragic collision between the Broncos’ bus and a semi-trailer on April 6 claimed the lives of 16 players and staff on their way to a junior ‘A’ playoff game in Nipawin, Sask. Thirteen others were injured.
A new Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season is fast approaching and a new team will be on the ice as the Broncos kicked off training camp on Friday.
One of the lives cut short four months ago was the son of former NHLer Chris Joseph.
WATCH: Washington Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson follows through for Humboldt, Sask.
“As much as we all want to remember our team from last year, we really want the Broncos to succeed and we really want them to heal. We want the town to heal,” Jaxon Joseph’s father said.
“We’ve had a lot of days that have been quite sad and today’s got a totally different feel and we’re very appreciative of it.”
“We got to thank the NHL, NHLPA, the community. Just to help us heal and another step moving forward,” Broncos President Jamie Brockman said.
“The only way forward is to tackle that season one game at a time and so on and so forth. We want to do that remembering, obviously, the friends we’ve lost and the people that are still with us.”