COLUMN: Humboldt Broncos tragedy rekindles fond memories of coach

Darcy Haugan remembered as great coach, but better person, by PAN reporter Nick Greenizan

The population of Humboldt, Sask. is just a shade under 5,900, and like many small communities that dot the Canadian Prairies, it’s a hockey town.

I’ve never been there, but I know. If you’ve ever been to a community of similar size in this country, you probably know, too. The first reporting job I ever had was in a town like that – Peace River, Alta.

The population there is about the same as Humboldt – 6,000 and change. A little higher on weekends if a visiting hockey team was in town, and a little less if the junior ‘B’ Peace Air Navigators were on the road, or fans followed the senior-league Peace River Stampeders down the highway a few miles for a game in nearby Grimshaw.

I spent nine months in that town – one full hockey season, from opening puck drop to the championship game. I may not have stayed long, but my best reporting stories – those ones you retell over and over again – come from there.

Those memories came flooding back Friday evening, when news broke that a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos – a junior ‘A’ hockey team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League – had been in a terrible accident, killing 14.

Among those killed were former Surrey Eagles player Jaxon Joseph and Broncos’ head coach Darcy Haugan, who was the coach of the Navigators during my one season in Peace River.

I loved covering that team – they were a dominant group, barely losing a game all year – but if truth be told, I was never really cut out for Northern Alberta. I don’t think I even had a winter coat, and I refused to buy snow tires for my car.

Darcy – Peace River, born and raised – knew it too. I mean, how could he not? Once, while watching practice, I got stuck to the back wall of the local rink when my windbreaker (good for sub-zero winters, I’m sure) froze to the wall, like a tongue on a lamp post.

It didn’t take me long to realize that as good a coach as he was, Darcy was a better person. One memory sticks out.

It was after a game, the Navigators having just dispatched another opponent with ease. I’d been late to the rink earlier that evening, and parking was scarce. Not wanting to miss a moment, I parked my car the only place I could find, and drove up and over a small mound of snow and ice.

After the game, I mentioned to Darcy where I’d parked, and without a second of pause, he went into the locker room and dragged a few tired players out.

“Go help Nick push his car out of the snow,” he said.

And that’s how, late on a frigid Saturday night in Northern Alberta, four junior ‘B’ hockey players ended up pushing some idiot reporter’s Honda Civic out of a snowbank.

In the days and weeks to come, there will no doubt be more stories like that – about not just Darcy, but his players, too.

Stories will be shared. Tears will be shed, and good people will be rightly remembered.

And it may seem a long way off right now, but one day, people – and a community – will begin to heal.

But like the ill-prepared reporter without a winter jacket, it’s going to feel cold for a while.

Nick Greenizan is a sports reporter at the Peace Arch News.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Deer carcass strung up at Surrey fire hall prompts investigation

Investigation underway following complaint a Surrey firefighter hung a deer carcass in a fire hall

Get your head in the clouds at Surrey’s UrbanScreen

Interactive art project captures images of people and re-interprets them into the form of clouds

OUR VIEW: Surrey RCMP Basketball Classic is a keeper

What will become of it once a city police force replaces the RCMP in Surrey?

‘Oprah’s parenting expert’ in Surrey for workshop in February

In event to benefit a Surrey foundation, Dr. Shefali Tsabary to talk about ‘The Conscious Parent’

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

VIDEO: Langley woman without a home after houseboat sinks during snowy weather

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the Grant’s Landing resident replace her possessions

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

B.C. teacher suspended for poking student in stomach, pulling another’s ponytail

Teacher also swore in classroom, used Facebook to contact students

Larry Walker Jr. and Sr. keeping expectations low for hall-of-fame induction

Walker needs 75 percent of votes in order to be inducted into Cooperstown

Most Read

l -->