A few days after Jaxon Joseph’s death – one of 16 in the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash April 6 – Blaine Neufeld, former coach with the Surrey Eagles, said what he wanted, more than anything, was for the 20-year-old hockey player to be remembered.
Now, the Eagles have found a way to do just that – by retiring Joseph’s No. 10 jersey.
Team president Chuck Westgard confirmed to Peace Arch News this week that the number will go up into the rafters, but said official plans to honour Joseph – who played for the Eagles during the 2015/16 season – were still being worked out.
After his time in South Surrey, Joseph moved on to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, first with the Melfort Mustangs and then with Humboldt. The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin when their team bus collided with a semi truck.
Westgard hopes the gesture will serve as a way not only to honour Joseph, but his Humboldt teammates, as well.
“It’s a tragedy that hit everyone hard, especially those of us in the hockey community,” Westgard said Tuesday. “Number one, this is a way to honour Jaxon, but number two, it’s a way to acknowledge what happened and make sure people don’t ever forget.
“We need to remember those kids, and those people.”
Speaking with PAN a few days after the bus crash, Neufeld said the tragedy hit home with everyone involved in the sport, calling it “heartbreaking, horrific – it’s about as bad as it gets.”
Though Joseph only played part of one season in Surrey, he was one of the team’s most well-respected players, 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,” he said at the time.
Joseph’s number will be the second retired by the club. Former forward Jeff Nabseth’s No. 8 jersey was retired after he was killed in a bike accident on Vancouver Island in 1999.
Caige Sterzer wore No. 10 last season with the Eagles, and while the team brass hasn’t spoke with him yet about making a switch, Westgard said “he won’t have any problem with it.”