“I got a lot of emotions going on,” he said of attending the team’s home opener.
“Happy, excited, a little bit of sadness maybe.”
It’s the first time he had been back to Humboldt since the team bus collided with a semi-truck. Straschnitzki, now 20, was paralyzed from the chest down.
He made the decision to return, he said, because he wanted to support the team that gave him his Junior A hockey experience.
The crowd stood and applauded Straschnitzki when it was announced that he was in the arena.
He said he was especially happy to see Graysen Cameron on the ice. He and Cameron first played together when they were 12-years-old and both were passengers on the ill-fated bus.
“He’s been a great guy (with) great character and he’s a really good player. Him being (named) the captain of the Broncos is truly special and I’m so proud of him,” Straschnitzki said.
He said he was excited for the new season — that he wanted to get back on the ice — but that the return to the arena brought back memories of his teammates who didn’t survive the crash.
“I see the numbers up there, the jerseys retired and it brings back all those memories — those good times, bad times, those rough times and happy moments,” Straschnitzki told Global News.
It had been more than 500 days since he was last in Humboldt.
Straschnitzki said he had returned as a different person.
“I think I’ve become a better person. I know it sounds cliché but going through something like that and meeting a bunch of people who struggled even more than you, people who have it worse, it’s really humbling,” he said.
“You want to be a better person to everyone because you never know the last time you’re going to see them.”