Playing their first game since the tragic bus crash that killed 16 people last April, the Humboldt Broncos’ season-opener will leave everyone in tears, because it will be the next step in the healing process for this small Saskatchewan town.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team will start a new era on Wednesday for their first game on the season, which will be broadcast live on national television (Wednesday on TSN beginning at 5:30 pm PT / 6:30 pm MT / 8:30 pm ET) for all of Canada to see.
“I don’t know how our players are going to react,” Nathan Oystrick told an afternoon news conference in Humboldt on Tuesday.
“Obviously the returning players — it is going to be very emotional for them. Either way it is going to be an emotional game. And I am hoping that once the puck drops, our guys are focused and ready to play hockey.”
The Broncos will be facing the Nipawin Hawks, the same junior A hockey team the Broncos were on their way to play April 6 when their bus collided with a tractor-trailer at a rural intersection.
Only two of the survivors — Derek Patter and Brayden Camrud — are back on the team this season and are expected to play in Wednesday’s sold-out game.
A ceremony to honour the victims of the crash will take place after the game. Players will wear green and yellow ribbon sticker on their helmets. Amongst the survivors, two remain in hospital suffering from brain injuries, while two others were paralyzed in the crash.
Head coach Darcy Haugan lost his life in the crash, and his wife Christina will attend the game in his honour.
“Not having Darcy behind the bench like he should be and watching the team is going to be incredibly hard and emotional. But we will do it kind of like we have done all the other steps in this journey and it is one moment at a time,” she told Regina radio station CKRM in an interview this week.
The Broncos will be back on the team bus Friday for a game in Nipawin and will continue playing as they persevere in their healing process.