The Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragically changed the lives of 16 families who lost their loved ones, and for the 13 players who survived the crash — their lives have of course been changed forever.
Global News spoke with a few of the victims’ families to see how they are feeling ahead of the start of the regular season.
Before leaving Saskatoon for Humboldt, Scott Thomas added a fifth tattoo to remember his son who died in the crash.
“I’m getting a tattoo that my wife actually, I think she’s seen in person in Geneva, Switzerland, it’s called, it’s a statue called Melancholy,” Evan Thomas’s father Scott said.
WATCH: Scott Thomas talks about kinship formed among bus crash victims’ families
“It’s basically representative of a man who’s broken, hollow inside, clearly quite upset in his spirit and actually even kind of like an open mouth there, screaming at the world with the uvula dangling at the back there so it’s kind of representative of all the feelings that I have after losing Evan. Hollow and broken.”
WATCH: Father tells his favourite story about late Humboldt Broncos player
A new season brings reminders of all the times his family has spent at the rink. Normally, Scott would be off to watch daughter and son Evan embark on a new hockey season.
“It’s actually what it would have been this time of year. In the rink, usually with a sense of excitement to get on with the season and now, yeah, we’re going out to see a … a new team and our son isn’t on it, and he would have been. He’d been a significant player for them. He’d been a second-year returning guy so it’s going to be tough, no question,” Scott said.
Scott says he’s talked with the two returning players, Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter, telling them he’s proud of them, and will be thinking of them all the way through.
“Just let them know that we’re happy that they’re there and we’re happy that the team’s going on and that they’re going to compete and hopefully have a pretty good season,” Scott said.
Scott said they decided not to get season tickets because they didn’t think they’d use them enough to justify it, but are fans of the Broncos and will follow the league. He has also been invited by Evan’s billet family, and is sure they will catch other games.
Darcy Haugan’s widow Christina Haugan holds onto the pucks her late husband cherished. They were a team – he coached, and she used to work in the Broncos’ office.
WATCH: Victims’ families prep for Humboldt Broncos’ emotional season opener
Darcy’s sons still play hockey, and his widow will stay in the community for at least one year.
“We’ll still be cheering them on from afar, but just being as involved as we were, it’s just too personal right now,” Christina said.
In Lethbridge, Alta., the late Logan Boulet’s parents make plans to attend every Broncos home-opener at the Elgar Petersen Arena for many seasons to come, and they had this message for the team.
“I always told Logan or our daughter Mariko, ‘Work hard, play hard, have fun, and this is the beginning of a new beginning,’” Logan’s mother Bernadine Boulet said.
WATCH: Boulet family travels to Humboldt to honour son for Broncos’ season opener
Broncos past and present will be gathering in Humboldt on Wednesday night. For the victims’ families, it’s a chance to reconnect with people who share a common bond.
“Before the accident, we certainly saw a few people that we would chat with occasionally, in pleasantries, but since then … I would say that we’ve become a family … it’s a lot of intimate, raw, powerful emotions and discussions that have developed amongst a significant majority of the families for sure,” Scott said.
“Clearly, other people have lost children before, family members, but the scope of the tragedy: 16 people dead; two brain-injured; two paralyzed. It exploded in the consciousness of everybody in Canada and North America, and unless you’re on the inside, I don’t think you could understand.”