Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivors Kaleb Dahlgren, left, and Jacob Wasserman are introduced as the heroes of the game prior to the Saskatchewan Rush taking on the Rochester Knighthawks in game three of the the National Lacrosse League finals in Saskatoon on June 9, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

Humboldt survivors to attend NHL Awards

Players say it’s a blessing to be back together again

Kaleb Dahlgren pushes Ryan Straschnitzki’s wheelchair up a ramp and onto a riser.

Tyler Smith follows right behind and takes his spot in front of a sea of cameras and microphones inside a vast luxury hotel ballroom.

It’s not how they wanted it to be, but the Humboldt Broncos, some of them at least, are finally back together.

“Sharing stories and just kind of being (as much of) a team as we can again is important,” Smith said Tuesday. ”We can cry together, we can do everything together and just kind of heal in our own way.

“It’s just a blessing to be here together.”

RELATED: Donations reach $1M for families after Humboldt Broncos bus crash

The Broncos were travelling together to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game on April 6 when their bus collided with a truck — a devastating crash on a flat, lonely stretch of Prairie highway that resulted in the deaths of 16 people, including 10 players.

Of the 13 that survived, 10 are at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas at the invitation of the league and NHLPA.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Straschnitzki, who was paralysed from the chest down. ”These guys are such great guys to be around. It warms my heart. I’m really excited.”

The remaining Broncos had not been in the same place since the crash, with nine of them flying into Las Vegas on Monday before Straschnitzki joined on Tuesday from Philadelphia where he’s undergoing physiotherapy.

“You want to always go see your teammates,” Dahlgren said. ”You’re with them four hours every day. You miss them. It’s nice to give everybody a hug and be with each other in this time.

“I’m just thankful that we’re all here together.”

The NHL Awards on Wednesday night will include a tribute to the Broncos, while Humboldt head coach Darcy Haugan, who was killed in the crash, is posthumously nominated for the inaugural Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award.

RELATED: More than 3,000 attend Humboldt Broncos hockey player funeral

One of Haugan’s slogans for his team was “It’s a Good Day to be a Bronco” — something his surviving players continue to live by.

“It was a very important quote,” Smith said. ”A lot of guys will take that with us for the rest of our lives.

“We’re all going to be Broncos forever. No matter what day it is, it’s a great day to be a Bronco.”

The tragedy not only devastated the tight-knit community and province, but shook the hockey world as players and coaches from junior all the way up to the NHL reflected on the countless hours spent with teammates crisscrossing the country in buses on rural, wind-swept, winter roads.

“It means so much for hockey and for all the NHL players to be able to come and share a few words with them and talk and just joke around with them,” said Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who is up for the Ted Lindsay Award. ”It’s great to see them here. Just think about how far they’ve come from only a short time ago.

“To see them here is really uplifting for all of us.”

Dahlgren said it didn’t take long for the Broncos to get back to some of the banter that used to echo through their locker room.

“We’re still giving each other the gears sometimes,” he said. ”It’s good to have humour. You have to make the most of every situation that you’re in.

“We’re trying to be positive and have a good time with each other.”

Smith said the Broncos were far and away the closest team he was ever part of.

“Either way we would have been a family until the end,” he said. “That’s what made everything really hard. There’s one wish I had for my birthday — to bring everybody back and just be together once again.”

That they are, just with a big chunk of their heart still missing.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon preps for cannabis legalization

Vernon council tweaking zoning bylaws for non-medical cannabis uses, and cannabis cultivation

Vernon councillors needle IHA about programs

One Vernon councillor wants a buyback program; one wants IHA to assume more responsibility

Vernon Sharps team not in favour of needle exchange

City team looking to set up dedicated phone line among other recommendations

Shuswap homing pigeon in need of new abode

Carrier pigeon wearing outdated identification band takes up residence in Yankee Flats

Vernon businesses win Commercial Building Award

Vernon finalists for this year’s award BC Hydro and Vernon Trades Training both won awards Thursday.

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

South Okanagan neighbourhood surprised by emergency response team activity

RCMP officers were conducting emergency response training

Premier John Horgan ponders debate on voting system changes

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson wants one-on-one, no Green

Thieves rip ATM out of Sun Peaks Resort

Kamloops Rural RCMP are investigating after an ATM was stolen from the Day Lodge at Sun Peaks.

Saganash drops F-bomb in Commons over federal approach to Trans Mountain

NDP’s reconciliation critic accused federal government of ‘wilfully’ violating constitutional duties

Okanagan Fall Wine Festival tastier than ever

Festival celebrating 38 years

VIDEO: B.C. dairy farmer says Trump doesn’t understand the industry

‘They need supply management just as bad as we need to keep it’: sixth generation farmer Devan Toop

VIDEO: Death threat, racist comments spewed over empty seat on B.C. bus

Transit Police are investigating the incident, shared online by fellow passengers on Vancouver bus

Most Read