Rebuilt Humboldt Broncos make playoffs after devastating bus crash

The Broncos finished sixth out of 12 teams with 35 wins in 58 games and 74 points

The rebuilt Humboldt Broncos hockey team is heading to the playoffs.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team was devastated after its bus and a transport truck collided at a rural intersection almost a year ago.

Sixteen people — including 10 players — were killed and 13 players were injured.

Two surviving players returned this season, but the rest of the team was essentially built from scratch after a May training camp.

The final games of the league’s regular season were held on Tuesday night.

The Broncos finished sixth out of 12 teams with 35 wins in 58 games and 74 points.

The Broncos will play the Estevan Bruins in the first playoff round starting on March 15.

“It will be a tough series,” Scott Barney, interim head coach of the team, said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “They’ve got a great team down there. They’ve got a lot of older, veteran players who have a lot of experience.”

He said he marvels at how quickly his rebuilt team has bonded over the season and how players have turned that bond into success on the ice.

“The guys came together pretty quickly out of training camp,” said Barney, who was assistant coach for the first half of the season. “It seems like they are all playing for each other.”

READ MORE: Doctors snooped in Humboldt Broncos patient records

Alternate captain Michael Clarke, who joined the team this year, said the Broncos have surpassed everyone’s expectations.

“I don’t think many of us knew what we were getting ourselves into coming into the year — just with what happened and with so many new players being on the same team and not playing together, it was a bit of a learning curve,” the centreman said.

Fans have filled the Elgar Petersen Arena to watch the Broncos play and others have cheered the team from afar as it rebuilt.

Clarke, who was the top scorer with 71 points, said he thinks they have handled the outside pressure well.

“We tried to shut that out and keep motivated within the room.”

Clarke wears the “A” along with fellow centres Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter, the two survivors of the bus crash who are back on the team.

“It’s good in the sense that it helps us relate to what happened even more,” he said. “Seeing two guys, Brayden and Derek, to be able to play through something like that and come back this year.

“They want to play the game they love — it motivates the rest of the guys.”

Camrud overcame a severe concussion, loss of feeling in one of his arms and neck issues. He had 27 goals and 28 assists during the regular season.

Patter, who still struggles with a leg injury, had 10 goals and 11 assists.

Barney said the three alternate captains have brought the rest of the team together.

“Having the older players that we do have in the room has really made a big difference with our team,” he said.

The Broncos lost their coach, Darcy Haugan, in the crash. His replacement, Nathan Oystrick, parted ways with the team in late December.

Barney took over as interim head coach for the rest of the season. He said the players have adjusted well to the changes.

“They seemed to buy in right away,” he said. “It showed in our performance.

READ MORE: Humboldt Broncos victims’ families share how crash changed their lives

“We obviously didn’t want to change too much, so we just got them all believing in each other again, which is the biggest thing when someone new takes over.”

Barney, a former professional hockey player from Oshawa, Ont., said he has high hopes for the playoffs.

“I’ve got to keep the guys focused on the task at hand and obviously make things fun, too.”— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Check online to make sure you’re registered to vote in upcoming provincial election

Advance polls open Tuesday, April 9th to Saturday, April 13th

NDP Leader Rachel Notley stops in Red Deer on campaign trail

Notley promises hospital expansion, cath lab, pipelines and energy industry expansion

Town of Sylvan Lake looking for input on dog lake access

The Town held an open house about lake access for dogs on March 14

New high school a priority for Sylvan Lake, says Chinook’s Edge

Chinook’s Edge has prioritized a new high school in its 2020-2023 capital budget

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

New Leger polls suggests federal Liberals lagging Conservatives

Overall, 31 per cent of respondents polled said they would vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals

Teen girl accused in plot to attack Kamloops school with weapons out on bail

Judge warned the girl she would be back in jail if she threatened to shoot anyone

Oil prices, Alberta election call cloud Stampede chuckwagon auction expectations

The top money bid last year came from Versatile Energy Services, Ltd.

Lacombe hosts 6th Invasive Species Council Conference at LMC

Council looks to protect native ecological environments in Alberta

Pot industry welcomes decreased edibles tax, but unhappy medical tax remains

Taxes can increase the cost of medical cannabis by as much as 25 per ceny

‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court

MPs continue voting marathon as Tories protest shutdown of Wilson-Raybould motion

Multiple MPs have resigned from Trudeau’s Liberal cabinet

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Most Read