Just a couple months after the bus crash that stole the lives of their teammates and friends, 10 of the 13 surviving players of the Humboldt Broncos were reunited for the first time at the NHL Awards.
The group first gathered on Tuesday, a moment 20-year-old Tyler Smith called, “the best thing ever.”
We all wish that we lived in the same neighbourhood,” said Smith, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.
“A lot of guys we can cry together, we can laugh together, we can do everything together and just kind of heal in our own way. It’s a blessing to be able to be here together.”
After meeting up and rubbing shoulders with the likes of P.K. Subban, Anze Kopitar, Connor McDavid, the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo upon their arrival on Tuesday, the players hit the red carpet and were introduced on stage to a roaring standing ovation at the NHL Awards on Wednesday night as part of a tribute to the Saskatchewan-based junior hockey team whose story has saddened and captivated the country and beyond since the devastating crash.
Players also went on stage to accept the inaugural Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award on behalf of their late head coach, Darcy Haugan, who was one of the 16 killed on that tragic day. His wife, Christina, delivered an emotional speech as the young men Haugan mentored looked on.
The O'Ree Award is named in honour of the NHL's first black player, and is presented to “an individual who, through hockey, has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society.”
The league will continue to try and help in the healing process later this summer when Saskatoon native Chandler Stephenson will spend his day with the Stanley Cup in Humboldt on Aug. 24—an event that will feature on on-ice skills competition between NHL players at the Broncos’ home rink, the Elgar Petersen Arena.