Rebuilt Humboldt Broncos make playoffs after devastating bus crash

The Broncos finished sixth out of 12 teams with 35 wins in 58 games and 74 points

The rebuilt Humboldt Broncos hockey team is heading to the playoffs.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team was devastated after its bus and a transport truck collided at a rural intersection almost a year ago.

Sixteen people — including 10 players — were killed and 13 players were injured.

Two surviving players returned this season, but the rest of the team was essentially built from scratch after a May training camp.

The final games of the league’s regular season were held on Tuesday night.

The Broncos finished sixth out of 12 teams with 35 wins in 58 games and 74 points.

The Broncos will play the Estevan Bruins in the first playoff round starting on March 15.

“It will be a tough series,” Scott Barney, interim head coach of the team, said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “They’ve got a great team down there. They’ve got a lot of older, veteran players who have a lot of experience.”

He said he marvels at how quickly his rebuilt team has bonded over the season and how players have turned that bond into success on the ice.

“The guys came together pretty quickly out of training camp,” said Barney, who was assistant coach for the first half of the season. “It seems like they are all playing for each other.”

READ MORE: Doctors snooped in Humboldt Broncos patient records

Alternate captain Michael Clarke, who joined the team this year, said the Broncos have surpassed everyone’s expectations.

“I don’t think many of us knew what we were getting ourselves into coming into the year — just with what happened and with so many new players being on the same team and not playing together, it was a bit of a learning curve,” the centreman said.

Fans have filled the Elgar Petersen Arena to watch the Broncos play and others have cheered the team from afar as it rebuilt.

Clarke, who was the top scorer with 71 points, said he thinks they have handled the outside pressure well.

“We tried to shut that out and keep motivated within the room.”

Clarke wears the “A” along with fellow centres Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter, the two survivors of the bus crash who are back on the team.

“It’s good in the sense that it helps us relate to what happened even more,” he said. “Seeing two guys, Brayden and Derek, to be able to play through something like that and come back this year.

“They want to play the game they love — it motivates the rest of the guys.”

Camrud overcame a severe concussion, loss of feeling in one of his arms and neck issues. He had 27 goals and 28 assists during the regular season.

Patter, who still struggles with a leg injury, had 10 goals and 11 assists.

Barney said the three alternate captains have brought the rest of the team together.

“Having the older players that we do have in the room has really made a big difference with our team,” he said.

The Broncos lost their coach, Darcy Haugan, in the crash. His replacement, Nathan Oystrick, parted ways with the team in late December.

Barney took over as interim head coach for the rest of the season. He said the players have adjusted well to the changes.

“They seemed to buy in right away,” he said. “It showed in our performance.

READ MORE: Humboldt Broncos victims’ families share how crash changed their lives

“We obviously didn’t want to change too much, so we just got them all believing in each other again, which is the biggest thing when someone new takes over.”

Barney, a former professional hockey player from Oshawa, Ont., said he has high hopes for the playoffs.

“I’ve got to keep the guys focused on the task at hand and obviously make things fun, too.”— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ponoka food grains growing project swathed

150 acres was swathed in three hours

Airport runway issue remains grounded

Matter deferred after lengthy discussion

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

Red Deer-Lacombe incumbent says he will run a clean campaign

Blaine Calkins, Red Deer-Lacombe MP, says he is excited for the six-week election period

Town awards contracts for three projects

Work to begin on new civic centre parking lot

Fashion Fridays: 10 effortlessly stylish items for fall

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Red Deer Rebels drop preseason tilt to Tigers 5-3

Rebels fail to score after three first period goals

Canada Post has unfair advantage in distributing flyers: news group

Crown corporation argues newspapers, private operators deliver majority of flyers in Canada

Black Elk Cutting Classic winner

Ponoka’s Calnash Ag Event Centre was again host to a premier event… Continue reading

UPDATE 2: Hwy. 53 closed most of Friday

Semi trailer carrying chickens overturned

Western Canadian Baseball team, stadium coming to Sylvan Lake

The Town announced they are finalizing an agreement to have a WCBL team in the future sports park

Sylvan Lake’s rainbow crosswalk defaced with homophobic message

The crosswalk was repainted Thursday morning to remove traces of the spray-painted words

Mounties lay secrets-law charges against one of their own

Cameron Ortis has been charged under the Security of Information Act

Canadian bobsledder Kaillie Humphries files lawsuit in bid to race for U.S.

Two-time world champion wants to expedite release from national team after filing harassment claims

Most Read