The Surrey Eagles are set to honour the memory – and the jersey number – of Humboldt Broncos’ bus-crash victim Jaxon Joseph this Friday at South Surrey Arena.
Prior to the Eagles’ game against the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings, the BC Hockey League team will honour Joseph by retiring his No. 10 and raising a banner into the rafters.
Joseph – the son of former NHLer Chris Joseph – played 21 games with Surrey during the 2015/16 season before moving on to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, where he played with the Melfort Mustangs and then the Broncos.
He was one of 16 people killed April 6 when the team bus collided with a truck on a Saskatchewan highway.
“We’re just going to pay our respects to the entire (Humboldt) team, and then honour Jaxon and celebrate him, and retire that No. 10,” said Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld, who was also the coach of the team during the 2015/16 season.
Prior to the start of the junior ‘A’ hockey season, teams from across the country – including the Eagles – hung banners in honour of the Broncos, as per a request from the Canadian Junior Hockey League, Neufeld said.
“It was nice to see that,” he said.
On Friday, Joseph’s immediate family – who live in Edmonton – will be in attendance, Neufeld said, as will many other family and friends from around the Lower Mainland.
Neufeld will speak during the ceremony, as will Dave Pundick, a longtime family friend of the Josephs whose family also billeted Jaxon when he played in South Surrey.
Already, Joseph has been honoured in Melfort as well as in Humboldt; the Broncos’ season-opener game was broadcast on national television, complete with pre and post-game ceremonies.
“It’s been a pretty tough two or three weeks for (the Joseph family), for sure,” said Pundick, who added that in his speech he simply wants to let people here know what type of person Jaxon was.
“He was a real family guy. He was a people person, and just wanted to be around friends and family. We’ve probably had five Eagles billets live with us over the years, and some are a little more shy and spent a lot of time in their rooms, but Jaxon just wanted to be around us.
“He knew us better, I guess, but he interacted with everyone, he helped out… he was part of the family really quickly.”
Pundick said he’ll also have a message for the Eagles and Spruce Kings who will play that evening, as well.
“I’m going to talk to them about having a vision and reaching for their dreams, because that’s exactly what Jaxon was doing,” he said. “They have to enjoy this experience (of playing junior hockey). Enjoying living with your billet family, enjoy living in a different city than the one you grew up in. It’s about doing your best and having no regrets.
“It’s going to be emotional, but I’m hoping it’s going to be a positive, too.”
Neufeld echoed Pundick’s thoughts, and hoped the ceremony – and others like it in rinks across the country – would serve as “a reminder to the whole hockey community not tot take for granted the game we have to play the game.”
He added that the team’s first bus trip this season – the first since the April tragedy in Humboldt – was a little different than the usual journey.
“It was a little bit strange. There were texts being sent back and forth that normally wouldn’t have been sent,” he explained. “Things like, ‘Hey, how are you guys – did you make it OK?” Those types of things.
“We’re all just a little more aware that these types of things can happen, and it forces you to not take things for granted, and enjoy what you’re here doing. It puts things in perspective, and we want to recognize that.”