By Dave Leaderhouse
Step by step the healing process for the Humboldt Broncos continues to move forward.
On Wednesday in Las Vegas most of the surviving members of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team that has endured the most tragic of hardships following a fatal bus crash that claimed 16 lives in early April was centre stage at the NHL Awards banquet.
Shortly after Jacob Wasserman, Xavier Labelle, Brayden Camrud, Bryce Fiske, Graysen Cameron, Matthieu Gomercic, Tyler Smith, Derek Patter, Ryan Straschnitzki and Kaleb Dahlgren were brought on stage to a standing ovation, the Broncos’ late coach, Darcy Haugen, was announced as the inaugural winner of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.
Haugen’s wife, Christina, then joined the players and gave an emotional acceptance speech that had most of the celebrity-studded crowd in tears.
“I’m honoured to accept this award for Darcy not because of what happened to him on April 6, 2018, but what he did every day before April 6,” said Christina in her opening remarks. “Darcy used the game of hockey, which he was so passionate about, as a tool to help shape young lives.”
To emphasize that point, Christina then listed off what she called Darcy’s Core Covenant that he had painted on a wall outside the Humboldt Broncos’ dressing room. That covenant looks like this:
Treat my teammates and co-workers with respect
Be thankful for the opportunity to wear a Broncos’ jersey
Play each game and practise with passion and determination
Conduct yourselves with honesty and integrity
Treat all volunteers, billets, sponsors and fans with respect and gratitude
Understand that we are building foundations for future generations with our words and actions
Always have hope and believe that everything is possible
Always give more than you take
Strive for greatness in all areas of life
Christina noted that nowhere in that covenant does it mention wins or championships, “because Darcy’s purpose as a coach was to impact lives and develop strong character.”
That assessment paralleled the main purpose of the award as before it was given out, one of the presenters, Scott Oake from Sportsnet, said that the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award was established to recognize those who champion sport at the local level.
Christina ended her speech by stating that the torch has been passed with hopes that others will do what Darcy had set in place. She then turned to the players and gave each a heartfelt hug while a video on a large screen in the background rolled through photos of the 16 people who lost their lives in the accident.
Not in attendance at the banquet were players Layne Matechuk, Morgan Gobeil and Nick Shumlanski who Dahlgren said were still in hospital recovering from their injuries.
It was the first time since the accident that the surviving players were all together and the bond that has been created, not just from the tragedy, but from being led by Darcy Haugen was very apparent.
The spotlight will undoubtedly fade somewhat going forward, but the healing process will continue. For the surviving members of the team there is still plenty of work to do to overcome the trauma created by the event while the team itself is in the initial stages of building back the franchise that has been one of the most successful in Canadian Junior Hockey League history.
A new coach is expected to be named shortly and then the process of recruiting a team so that it will be ready when the season opens in September will begin.
#Humboldt Strong has become familiar worldwide and it is hoped that even as the steps of moving forward become bigger the memory of those who have fallen and the spirits of those who have survived will never be forgotten.