(The Canadian Press)

Back on the ice: Humboldt Broncos play first regular season game since the crash

16 were killed after a crash on a Saskatchewan highway

Ross Gilchrist was taken aback by how much a bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos affected him personally.

Gilchrist played for the junior hockey franchise from 1971 to 1973. The crash, which left 16 dead and many others dealing with lifelong injuries, prompted him to call a couple of former teammates and get an alumni association started.

He was able to purchase nearly 30 tickets for when the Broncos get back on the ice Wednesday night for their first regular season game since the tragedy and he offered them to the 220 people he managed to get on the team’s alumni mailing list.

“We just got inundated,” Gilchrist recalls from his home in Victoria, B.C.

READ MORE: BCHL teams involved in tribute to Humboldt Broncos

READ MORE: Capitals player taking Stanley Cup to Humboldt

READ MORE: ‘It’s past a nightmare:’ Father of Humboldt crash survivor recalls carnage

Emails started to flood in from people all over the world, including England and Sweden, who wanted to come and show their support.

Team president Jamie Brockman says he is not really sure what to expect when the Broncos face the Nipawin Hawks Wednesday night.

The Hawks are the same team the Broncos were on their way to play April 6 when their bus collided with a tractor-trailer at a rural intersection.

Brockman, who took over the president’s role last month, says the home opener, which will be broadcast live on TSN, is another step toward getting back to normal.

“I know we’re going to have a hockey team that is going to want to play for that logo on the chest,” Brockman says. ”And a lot of people that want to see that be successful.”

But, he says, last year’s team won’t be far from their minds.

“Time does help some, but we’ll never forget,” he says. “We’re experiencing a new normal and we’ll never want to forget the players and families that have been involved in that moving forward.”

Memorials already line the halls and ice at the Bronco’s Elgar Petersen Arena.

Just inside the main doors, there’s a big cross with the names of those who died in the crash along with a flag of what province they were from.

A giant hockey stick with the hashtags #BroncosStrong and #PrayersforHumboldt stands beside it.

Further down, there’s a glass display with banners displaying the numbers and last names of everyone on last year’s team and a team picture.

Candles, flowers, and Broncos themed hockey equipment are also on display.

Inside the rink, a pair of ribbons with the Broncos colours are painted into each end of the ice.

Pastor Sean Brandow has been in Humboldt for eight years and has worked with the Broncos as their chaplain. He recalls late coach Darcy Haugan’s slogan: “It’s a great day to be a Bronco, gentlemen.”

“I hope that’s true again this year too,” Brandow says.

Former Edmonton Oiler Chris Joseph, whose son Jaxon died in the crash, wishes the new team well.

“As much as we all want to remember our team from last year, we really want the Broncos to succeed and we really want them to heal,” Joseph said at a recent event in the community.

“We want the town to heal.”

Leo Wurtz, the founding president of the Broncos, is proud the team will carry on.

The 79-year-old, who lives in Lloydminster, Sask. now, says the new season will help take people’s minds off the tragedy.

“I think it’s knowledge in the hockey world that the Humboldt Broncos were, if not they are, the top junior A franchise in Canada,” Wurtz said. ”They’ll follow in the footsteps of the great teams that were before them.”

Ralph Britz, who was an assistant coach on the team in the early 1980s and a former season-ticket holder, says the community is behind the team.

“Humboldt sort of (thrives) on the Broncos in the winter months,” Britz says. ”It’s a big income for the Humboldt area, because there’s lots of people around here that just live for hockey.”

There is a reunion for the 1972-73 Broncos team the day before the home opener.

Gilchrist, who was on that team, says it’s bittersweet to have the Broncos back for another season.

He recalls a conversation he had with Haugan’s replacement, coach Nathan Oystrick.

“I said: ‘This is a win that you’re actually even icing a team this year,’” Gilchrist said. ”I think that’s a huge win.

“That’s a pretty big deal, considering what’s happened.”

Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Opioid overdoses killing three people a month in Chilliwack

35 deaths in 2018 locally compare to 23 in 2017, 13 in 2016 up from about five per year before that

More people in Chiliwack coming in to shelters to get out of the cold

Ruth and Naomi’s went over-capacity this week to accommodate shelter guests coming in from the cold

Agassiz break and enter suspect arrested

The Chilliwack man faces charges relating to break and enters throughout Agassiz

Outdoor rink, lagoon improvements on the agenda for Harrison

The projects are intended to increase tourism numbers and infrastructure in the resort village

Chilliwack parent urges fellow dog owners to keep Fido off school grounds

Risks of harmful encounters between kids on and dogs are too high, says Chilliwack mom

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Prominent B.C. realtor says he doesn’t know how child porn got on his computer

Closing arguments heard in Ian Meissner’s Chilliwack trial for accessing, possessing child porn

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Avalanche control planned tomorrow on Highway 1

The highway will be closed in the morning east of Revelstoke

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Mayors approve SkyTrain extension to UBC

Next step is a business plan and public consultation

Most Read