The Humboldt Broncos took the ice last night in an emotional season opener. This was their first game since the horrific April 6 bus crash that took 16 lives, including players and team staff. Here’s everything you need to know about the team's first night back.
Firstly, the Broncos were set to play the Nipawin Hawks, the same team they were headed to face off with when the deadly crash occurred. The night began with eight crash survivors going onto the ice for a ceremonial puck drop.
Powerful scene from last night's Humboldt Broncos home opener. The shot of the surviving former players on the ice in street clothes is indescribable. pic.twitter.com/kcGWBWK2RU— Ted Bird (@manofbird) September 13, 2018
Only two of the 13 survivors, Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter, are lacing up their skates this season. Camrud overcame a severe concussion, loss of feeling in one of his arms and neck issues following the crash.
Some injuries of the survivors who went onto the ice for the puck drop are still visible. Xavier Labelle, who is the young man initially mistaken as having died in the crash, has a large scar running across his forehead down to his eye. Goaltender, Jacob Wassermann used a wheelchair to get onto the ice.
The team played for a sold-out crowd at Elgar Petersen Arena and the stands went absolutely wild when the Broncos scored their first goal of the season. Although the Broncos lost 2-1 to the Hawks, that was not at the forefront of anyone's mind. The night was clearly all about solidarity and remembrance.
Following the game, a tribute banner was held in honour of the crash's victims and survivors. Banners featuring the team colours of green and yellow were arranged in a circle on the ice.
Each banner had the names and numbers of the people on the bus that day. Photos of each one of them were shared on the arena's screen as the crowd gave a standing and tearful ovation.
Former Broncos president, Kevin Grainger spoke to the media after the game "We know that, while the darkness is much less, it will never truly leave us as it holds the love that we have left for those who are no longer with us and those who have been impacted by this tragedy," he said. "But we will forever cherish their memories and honour their legacy and, as hard as it has been, we have and will continue to move forward with them and because of them."
The team will face the Hawks for a rematch next Friday and surely have the entire country cheering them on.