No blueprint for Humboldt Broncos to rebuild team in wake of bus tragedy
Five months after a tragedy ripped apart families, a hockey team, and a community in Saskatchewan, the Humboldt Broncos are embarking on a new chapter.
A collision between the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) team’s bus and a semi-trailer on April 6 claimed the lives of 16 players and staff on their way to a playoff game. Thirteen others were injured.
When the Humboldt Broncos organization decided to move forward this season, the big question was where those players would come from.
As the entire nation came together to support the Broncos family in its time of need there was no shortage of people who wanted to be part of the rebuilding process.
Offers to join the team came pouring in from across the country. The SJHL also held a special draft to provide the Broncos with players and others were acquired in trades.
Broncos defenceman Kyle Sargent has played on a lot of hockey teams in his life, but none quite like this one.
“It’s a big group with a lot of character. There’s only so many guys wearing letters but there’s a lot of leaders on this team,” Sargent said.
“I had heard rumours they were going to do a draft of some sort to give the Broncos players. Didn’t expect to be taken in it, but definitely was looking forward to it from the get-go.”
The final roster of 24 represent 15 different communities across three provinces, all united by a desire to bring hockey back to Humboldt.
Broncos goaltender Dane Dow knew two of the players who died in the April bus crash and is eager to carry on the Broncos name.
“Over the summer I definitely had a lot more motivation. There’s a lot more to play for here, and it’s a true honour to get this opportunity, and I’m just ready for it,” Dow said.
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But as they look ahead to the future the new Broncos team is also mindful of the past. Crash survivors Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter, the only players to return this season, serve as a daily reminder.
“They’ve been absolutely amazing. They’re the two hardest working players on the ice every single day. They come to the rink prepared and ready to go,” Broncos head coach Nathan Oystrick said.
“It’s been great actually, you know what we have a great group of guys this year and being a veteran and returning to the team this year I’m happy to take on the responsibility of being a leader,” Broncos forward Brayden Camrud said.
Unlike the plays drawn up at practice there’s no blueprint for rebuilding a team in the wake of a tragedy, but as hockey players do they’ll take it one game at a time.
“It’s impossible to not have it in the back of the mind, but we show up to the rink every day, we get on the ice for practice and we go play the sport that we love,” Sargent said.
The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. CT as the Broncos take on the defending SJHL champion Nipawin Hawks, the same team they were on the way to play when the tragedy took place.
The team will honour all of the victims and survivors in a special post-game ceremony on Wednesday.
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