Junior hockey players organize memorial hockey tournament for late Humboldt Broncos friends

A group of junior hockey players will host a charity tournament this weekend in St. Albert to honour friends killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

The weekend tournament, running Friday through Sunday at the Mark Messier Arena in Servus Place, will specifically honour four fallen Broncos who were St. Albert hockey alumni: Stephen Wack, Jaxon Joseph, Logan Hunter and Conner Lukan. 

“After the accident happened, a group of us said, ‘What can we do to kind of help the healing process?’ ” said Whitecourt Wolverine Jaedon Leslie, 19, one of the co-organizers. ” ‘Let’s do a hockey game, playing the sport that the boys loved.’ From a game, it evolved into a tournament, because everybody wanted to play.”

Ten Humboldt Broncos players — and six other people associated with the team, including the head coach — died in April after the team’s bus collided with a semi-truck at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.

Leslie, also from St. Albert, knew all of them.

“They always just went out and played the game at their highest level possible,” Leslie said.

‘It hit close to home’ 

Eighty-four local junior or minor hockey players touched by the tragedy have formed four teams. 

Among them is Josh Dechaine, 19, who plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Like Watck, he formerly played with Leslie for the Whitecourt Wolverines.

“Being a junior hockey player, you spend a lot of hours on the bus. When it happened, it hit close to home,” said Dechaine, who is helping Leslie co-organize the event.  

Dechaine grew up in St. Albert and also knew Wack, Joseph, Hunter and Lukan. 

He said watching his community rally in their honour has been unbelievable.

“It just kind of shows you the volume of how great the support is in our community, and how tight-knit not only the hockey community is but the community itself,” Dechaine said, noting there’s been an outpouring from sponsors looking to assist with the event. 

Admission to the tournament is free, but there will be a donation box at the door and fundraising throughout, including via silent auction. 

Eighty per cent of the money raised will go to the St. Albert’s Humboldt Remembrance Committee, which is looking to establish scholarships in honour of the four late Broncos from the city. 

NHL player Colton Parayko, a defenceman with the St. Louis Blues, will participate in the tournament. The puck will be dropped at the opening ceremonies by local Broncos survivors Derek Patter and Tyler Smith. 

This team photo of the Humboldt Broncos was taken before the crash in April. (Humboldt Broncos/Twitter)

Wide-reaching impact

Kyle Dube is involved in the hockey community through his children, and offered to help when he heard about plans for the tournament.

As executive director of an organization called YOUCAN Youth Services, Dube has experience with the logistics of organizing large-scale events. 

“Seeing all these young hockey players … who just didn’t know what to do, and this is what they thought they could do: play hockey, lift up the memory of these boys,” Dube said. “It kind of tore away at me and I decided, you know what, if I can help I’ll help where I can.”

Dube’s son was coached by Jaxon Joseph’s father, Chris Joseph.

“As parents, both my wife and I, from the day it happened until now, we talk about it every day,” Dube said, of the bus crash. 

“It was just heart-wrenching and it has been heart-wrenching, still.”

Dube said watching the junior hockey players take the initiative to honour their friends has been inspirational. 

“At the end of the day, all they want is the names of these boys to live on through those scholarships and to hopefully be a legacy for them,”  Dube said. 

roberta.bell@cbc.ca

@roberta__bell



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