Humboldt Broncos tribute center, roadside memorial plans unveiled

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The city of Humboldt and the Humboldt Broncos Memorials Committee jointly announced plans on Monday for a Humboldt Broncos Tribute Center and roadside memorial at the site of the deadly bus crash involving the junior hockey team three years ago.

The proposed tribute center will be constructed in Humboldt, Saskatchewan in a building adjacent to the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Broncos, who play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The roadside memorial will be erected at the site of the crash on Highway 35 site near Armley, Saskatchewan.

The city and memorials committee also jointly announced the plans for a national capital fundraising campaign to support construction costs.

Sixteen Broncos players, coaches and support staff members were killed in the crash on April 6, 2018. Another 13 were injured.

“From a family perspective it means a lot for us to have people remember the Broncos,” said Chris Joseph, a former NHL defenseman whose son, Jaxon, was one of the players killed in the crash. “We always love talking about Jaxon and the Broncos. We’re very proud. We’re very proud for all the hard work that’s gone into this. 

“From the other perspective, I think it’s an opportunity for all of us to give thanks for all of the love and support we received from the first little while and it’s been ongoing since. I think it’s an opportunity to do some good and create some smiles in and around the Humboldt area. Of course, the crash site for us, it does always have that gravesite feel so we want to make something beautiful there. It means the world to us.”

The Tribute Center and roadside memorial are designed to uplift and inspire hockey communities across Canada and to ensure those who died are always remembered.

“Three years ago, the hockey world was devastated when tragedy struck the Humboldt Broncos hockey team,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Today, the Broncos Memorial Committee announced a stirring vision for a Tribute Center and roadside memorial that will celebrate the lives of those we lost, those who were injured and the families who have endured so much pain. While doing so, the committee’s plan seeks to inspire the Humboldt community and the worldwide hockey family.

“The strength and perseverance of the Humboldt athletes and families that we have witnessed over the past three years have truly touched our League. The NHL is honored to support the committee in this ambitious effort to turn tragedy into inspiration.”

The Tribute Center is expected to support former coach Darcy Haugan’s Core Covenant, which featured messages about family first, respecting teammates, coaches, sponsors, billets and fans, playing and practicing with passion and determination, honesty, integrity and striving for greatness in all that you do.

Haugan was killed in the crash.

“I think it’s going to help people understand the team, the culture that Darcy helped implement into the team and maybe understand the character of each of the individuals, where they come from and what made them so special, and they truly were,” Joseph said. “Anybody that works with youth sports, they’ll see all the things that Darcy did and they’re going to want to emulate that. If that is the case, if you get multiple coaches trying to do their best to emulate Darcy, well, geez, everybody is going to be better off because of it.”

The proposed facility will recognize junior teams from across Canada and support the Humboldt community with a new ice rink and fitness center.

“The way Darcy was and the way he lived his life is he always looked to be able to do good, to give more than he takes,” said Christina Haugan, Darcy’s widow, in a video produced by the memorials committee. “For us, that is now what we’re trying to do. You want to give back. You want to find those people that you can impact. That’s what maybe this facility has the potential to do. It can draw people in and really inspire other people to go back home and pass that torch to impact other people as well.”

The video also includes messages of support from Hockey Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko and center Ryan O’Reilly, Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, forward Alexander Kerfoot, and alumni Wendel Clark, Kyle Lowry, a guard with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, and Ron MacLean, host of “Hockey Night in Canada” on Sportsnet.

Joseph said he’s hopeful a roadside memorial will impact anyone who passes or stops to visit.

“For others that maybe don’t know the stories of the 16, maybe they can learn a little bit more,” Joseph said. “I’m sure a lot of people know about them now, but I think it will be a good place for people to understand a little bit more about each of the individuals. But for myself and my family, that corner is always going to be a difficult place to go to.”

Information about the capital fundraising campaign to offset construction costs for the tribute center and roadside memorial can be found at www.broncostributecampaign.com.

“It sounds like there’s a lot of people that are really excited about participating in it and it sounds like it’s going to happen,” Joseph said. “We’re truly grateful. … This is above and beyond.”

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