A small Saskatchewan town devastated by a fatal bus crash involving its junior hockey team on Friday welcomed a trophy that fans no doubt hoped would one day be hoisted by one of their boys.
Washington Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson took the Stanley Cup to Humboldt to recognize the community’s strength and resilience after the April crash that killed 16 people — 10 of them players.
However, a quiet visit to the rural highway crossing where the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus and a transport truck collided might have meant the most.
A tweet from Philip Pritchard, official keeper of the trophy, showed the Stanley Cup sitting in the middle of a makeshift memorial composed of hockey sticks, crosses, flowers and flags.
“While their Stanley Cup dreams went unfulfilled, we thought we’d bring Stanley to them,” Pritchard said on Twitter.
“That means so much to me,” said Kaleb Dahlgren, one of the 13 players who survived. “I know those people that lost their lives there would really appreciate that. I appreciate it too.”
“It’s nice to honor that and it really does mean a lot,” he added.
Some of the survivors met privately with Stephenson before the trophy was introduced to the public.
Stephenson, originally from nearby Saskatoon and wearing a green “Humboldt Strong” T-shirt, was escorted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as he carried the trophy into Elgar Petersen Arena.
He was joined by more than a dozen current and former professional players for Humboldt Hockey Day, which was organized by the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association to honor the town of 6,000.
Chris Joseph, whose son Jaxon died, said that being back at the rink was difficult, but he was happy the Broncos are moving forward.
Training camp for the upcoming season started this weekend.
“I’m happy that the Broncos are ... getting ready to play,” Joseph said. “I think it’s a big step for the town. I think it’s a big step for the country. It’s a big step for hockey.”
The Broncos were on their way to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game in Nipawin when the crash occurred on April 6.
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