On April 6, 2018, the Humboldt Broncos’ hockey team was traveling north on Highway 35 in Saskatchewan, Canada, heading towards a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks. The driver of a tractor-trailer failed to yield at a rural intersection and struck the front of the team’s bus. There were 16 deaths as a result of the crash, including the team’s head coach, assistant coach, athletic therapist, radio announcer, bus driver, and players ranging from 16 to 21 years old.
After months of work by the 13 injured survivors of the crash, replacing players and team personnel, and healing the Humboldt community, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season will open on September 12. On that night, the Humboldt Broncos team will take the ice for their home opener, beginning one of the most noble seasons in sports history.
“To be back at the rink, for hockey, is exciting. The first training camp, we got goosebumps because finally hockey is back in Humboldt,” Broncos president Jamie Brockman said. “I think at times, [hockey] helps heal and helps progress. It keeps us focused moving forward.”
Wednesday’s game will take place in front of a sold-out crowd, and will be televised live on Canadian television’s TSN and worldwide on the NHL Network.
Only two Humboldt Broncos players who were on that bus, Derek Patter and Brayden Camrud, will suit up for the Broncos when they take the ice on Wednesday night, and they’ll carry the hearts of the 16 lives lost with them.
“I’m just going to play for the guys that can’t play hockey anymore,” Patter said. “To represent those 29 families, 29 people that were on that bus.”
Former NHL hockey player Nathan Oystrick was hired to rebuild the Humboldt Broncos, replacing the late coach Darcy Haugan, and he’s well-aware of the magnitude of this opening game after what happened just a few months before.
To everyone who has supported us on our journey to this point: thank you.
We will never forget the tragedy of April 6th, but I hope that today’s game helps us all take another step forward.
That it helps to heal, and bring us all – our team, our family, our communities and yours – closer together.
Today, like everyday, we honour the Humboldt Broncos’ crest and all it stands for, which is so much more than a game. We do so by competing and giving everything we’ve got to be the best people we can be, on and off the ice.
Thank you again to everyone for the support. – Coach Nathan Oystrick (via Twitter)
No player will wear the traditional captain’s “C” on their jersey this year, in memory of Logan Schatz, who was one of the Humboldt players killed in the bus crash.
After the game, there will be ceremony honoring the 10 players who died in the crash, as their jerseys will be raised to the rafters at the Elgar Peterson Arena and retired forever.
The Humboldt community, and the entire hockey world, will be tuned in for the Broncos home opener in what is sure to be one of the most emotional moments of the year.
Jaskirat Sidhu, the driver of the semi-truck, is facing 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. He’s next due back in court in October.
It’s a new season with a new team, but the 2017-18 Humboldt Broncos will live on forever.
Today, we’re all #HumboldtStrong.