Bron­cos raise names and num­bers to rafters to re­mem­ber crash vic­tims

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ryan McKENNA

HUM­BOLDT, Sask. — The names and num­bers of those in­volved in the Hum­boldt Bron­cos bus crash were raised to the rafters as the team tried to emerge from the grips of tragedy Wed­nes­day night.

Fam­ily mem­bers and fans cheered through tears as 29 yel­low and green ban­ners were un­furled hon­our­ing the 13 in­jured and re­mem­ber­ing the 16 dead.

“We know that, while the dark­ness is much less, it will never truly leave us as it holds the love that we have left for those who are no longer with us and those who have been im­pacted by this tragedy,” said for­mer Bron­cos pres­i­dent Kevin Garinger, who was the face of the team in the af­ter­math of the crash.

“But we will for­ever cher­ish their mem­o­ries and hon­our their le­gacy and, as hard as it has been, we have and will con­tinue to move for­ward with them and be­cause of them.”

The Bron­cos came up short in an emo­tional first reg­u­lar-sea­son game be­fore the cer­e­mony.

The Ni­pawin Hawks, last year’s Saskatchewan Ju­nior Hockey League cham­pi­ons and the same team the Bron­cos were trav­el­ling to face when the crash hap­pened, rode two late sec­ond-pe­riod goals to a 2-1 vic­tory.

But it was a night where the score was sec­ondary.

The evening be­gan with eight of the sur­viv­ing play­ers who aren’t with the team any­more drop­ping the puck in the cer­e­mo­nial face­off be­fore the game.

Kaleb Dahlgren, who now plays univer­sity hockey in On­tario, said it was im­por­tant to be there.

“I think it is a step in the heal­ing process,” he said. “Tonight def­i­nitely helps heal the wounds but it won’t for sure heal ev­ery­thing. There is still lots that needs to be done.”

Some of the in­jured play­ers’ in­juries were still ap­par­ent.

Xavier La­belle, who was ini­tially mis­taken as be­ing among the dead, has a large scar run­ning across his fore­head down to his eye, while goal­tender Ja­cob Wasser­mann used a wheel­chair to get onto the ice.

And while some of the sur­vivors dropped the puck, two oth­ers suited up and played.

Bray­den Cam­rud and Derek Pat­ter are the only two play­ers who were in­volved in the crash and are back on the Bron­cos this sea­son.

Cam­rud over­came a se­vere con­cus­sion, loss of feel­ing in one of his arms and neck is­sues. His play stood out for the Bron­cos Wed­nes­day night.

Many fam­ily mem­bers were also in at­ten­dance.

Dahlgren’s fa­ther, Mark, was struck by the trib­ute pho­tos out­side the arena as he and his son pulled up.

“I just saw all the pic­tures of the peo­ple that passed on the bus and I just looked over at him and said: ‘Sure glad your pic­ture’s not up there,”’ he said. “We’re the lucky ones and we don’t take it for granted. Ev­ery day we are ap­pre­cia­tive to have him with us.”

The game was difficult for at least one of the play­ers who suf­fered life­long in­juries in the crash.

For­mer Bron­cos player Ryan Straschnitzki, who was par­a­lyzed from the chest down in the crash, opted not to watch the sea­son opener in per­son. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to watch the game on TV even though it’s been on his mind.

“It’s not my team any­more,” Straschnitzki said ear­lier. “I wish them the best of luck, but it’s not my team and it’s go­ing to be hard to watch know­ing that I should be out there.”

Tom Straschnitzki said he un­der­stands why his son might be hes­i­tant.

“He should be play­ing in this home opener to­day as with the other play­ers,” he said. “It’s a difficult day.”

Hum­boldt Mayor Robert Muench said he thinks the game marks a step for­ward for his small city.

“I think peo­ple were... re­ally look­ing for­ward to the sea­son get­ting go­ing and see­ing the new team and see­ing the re­sults of a lot of work from a lot of peo­ple get­ting the team back on the ice,” he said.

“In my mind, it’s kind of a new page, a new chap­ter in the book I guess – mov­ing for­ward as a com­mu­nity and as a team.”

The Bron­cos will board a bus again on Fri­day and head to Ni­pawin for a re­match.

Team pres­i­dent Jamie Brock­man said the or­ga­ni­za­tion is grate­ful for all the sup­port it has re­ceived from across Canada and the world.

“We’re go­ing to find out what our new nor­mal is af­ter to­day,” he said. “Hockey is back in Hum­boldt. We are strong and we are go­ing to sur­vive and we are go­ing to move for­ward.”

CP PHOTO

Hum­boldt Bron­cos cur­rent and for­mer play­ers look on as ban­ners are un­veiled dur­ing a trib­ute to the team af­ter its SJHL game against the Ni­pawin Hawks in Hum­boldt, Sask., on Wed­nes­day night. The ban­ners in the fore­ground show the names of play­ers who sur­vived an April bus crash. In the back­ground are the names of those who lost their lives. The Bron­cos had just played their first game since the crash.

CP PHOTO

Hum­boldt Bron­cos for­ward Bray­den Cam­rud goes hard to the net dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s SJHL game against the Ni­pawin Hawks in Hum­boldt, Sask.

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