Former Surrey Eagle Jaxon Joseph – one of 15 people who were killed when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team was in a crash Friday night – is being remembered locally for his unwavering positivity, his sense of humour and for the respect he garnered in the locker room.
“He was just so easy to respect, and that’s because he was such a respectful person, himself,” said Surrey Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld, who was the coach of the team during the 2015/’16 season, when Joseph joined the club.
“We all remember his laughter, his smile – he was always positive. He had a great work ethic, (and) was a guy who would always try to find a solution to something when there was a problem.
“He was just a joy to have in our group. Our hearts go out to the Joseph family.”
Neufeld said Joseph – the son of former NHL defenceman Chris Joseph – didn’t waste much time making an impact on the Eagles that season.
“He scored in his first game,” Neufeld said.
Joseph, 20, played 21 games with Surrey and the following year moved to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He spent two years with the Melfort Mustangs before playing this season in Humboldt.
This season, he was the third leading scorer for the Broncos, whose bus collided with a semi truck while on its way to Nipawin, where the Broncos were scheduled to play Game 5 of their semifinal series against the Nipawin Hawks.
Only a handful of players on the Surrey Eagles’ most-recent roster played with Joseph during his time in South Surrey, and Neufeld said both he and head coach Brandon West have reached out to them, as well as recent team alumni to make sure they are doing OK following Friday’s news.
But direct connection to the tragedy or not, Neufeld – who, as a teenager, played junior hockey in a variety of places, from Vancouver to Saskatoon to Grande Prairie – said it’s no doubt being felt in every junior hockey rink across the country.
“It’s heartbreaking, horrific – it’s about as bad as it gets – and everybody has some type of connection to it,” he said. “We all travel by bus, and this is your worst fear as a junior hockey team. It’s just so sad. All you can do is pray, and offer your support (to the Humboldt victims) any way you can.”
Semiahmoo Minor Hockey posted a message of condolence to the Humboldt Broncos on its Facebook page over the weekend, and executive director Dave Newson said the crash has had an affect on parents – some of whom are, or have been, junior-hockey billet families.
“We are definitely feeling multiple connections throughout the association,” said Newson, who told Peace Arch News that he grew up playing hockey with Jaxon’s father, Chris.
“Jaxon’s billet family (from 2015/16) has a son who plays for us… many of our coaches and parents played junior , and many of our alumni are playing junior hockey now and dealing with the travel.”
Newson’s son, Calder, played eight games this season for the Weyburn Red Wings, who play in the same league as Humboldt.
“Every hockey community… shares the grief,” he said.
Neufeld said it’s important that Jaxon – as well as the other 14 who were killed – is remembered, and celebrated for what they brought not just to their hockey team, but to their families and communities.
“It’s important to remember the good things, and I just want him to be celebrated,” Neufeld said.
“Beyond the game of hockey, he was a young man who was built to succeed in life, and it’s just a shame he isn’t going to get that chance.”