(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

Fees ensure patients have access to parking at SMH, FHA says

Fraser Health Authority hasn’t heard yet from city hall about pay parking at Surrey hospital

Salish Secondary to host first-ever toy drive for Cloverdale Christmas Hamper

Drive hopes to boost gift donations for hamper program, which provides food, gifts to families

Surrey memories: How the ‘IGUISBCSIR’ Facebook page became a hub for anecdotal history

Former Whalley resident Wes Mussato launched the group in 2011, 11 years after he’d moved to Ontario

UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say missing 17-year-old girl located

Police say Rachel Friend was last seen at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 19, near the 14900-block of 81A Avenue

Three-team trade brings another goalie into Surrey Eagles’ nest

BCHL team ships Chase Stevenson to Trail and acquires blue-liner, goalie

VIDEO: Two officers of B.C. Legislature escorted out amid investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

Late 2019 too long to wait for ridesharing: B.C. Conservatives

“While the rest of the world is embracing this transportation revolution, B.C. is only now staggering slowly toward legislation on a business model that’s been mainstreamed for over a decade in other jurisdictions.”

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Jason Aldean, Old Dominion to headline Merritt’s Rockin’ River concerts next summer

Four-day music festival at Coldwater River from Aug. 1 to 4

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

Most Read