Peace River native Darcy Haugan’s legacy will live on through the game of hockey. Hundreds of supporters and fans gathered at the Baytex Energy Centre in Haugan’s hometown on Sunday afternoon to watch the Grande Prairie Storm take on the Humboldt Broncos.
Storm defenceman Tyrell Boucher is also from Peace River but was never coached by Haugan. However, their families were close when he was growing up. He says it was amazing to see the small arena packed with more than 1,500 people for their exhibition game.
“Darcy did amazing things here. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. He was a great coach. Everyone could look up to him or go talk to him whenever and seeing the support for him, it’s just awesome.”
Haugan was one of 16 people killed in a bus crash on a Saskatchewan highway in April. The Humboldt Broncos were headed to a playoff game in Nipawin, Saskatchewan when their bus was hit by a semi-truck outside of Tisdale. 16 players and staff were killed and 13 were injured.
Storm captain Connor Blake says the crash affected a lot of hockey players because of the amount of travelling they do during the season.
“It really hit home when I first found out about it. It even affected my family because they know how much we are on the bus. Every team travels so much and it’s where we make a lot of our memories as a team.”
Sunday’s matchup was one of two exhibition games being held in Peace River over the weekend. On Saturday, the Broncos took on the Whitecourt Wolverines in their first game back to the ice since the crash.
Both games were hosted by the North Peace Navigators of the North West Junior Hockey League where Haugan was also the head coach for 12 years. New Broncos head coach Nathan Oystrick says he is grateful for the opportunity to be in Haugan’s hometown honouring his memory.
“Darcy Haugan was the face of both of these franchises and the face of two communities and we’re honoured and humbled to be here and be a part of it.”
With only nine days left until opening night, Oystrick says he plans to focus on the upcoming season and making sure his players have everything they need to succeed.
“No one’s ever gonna forget that day but it’s a chance for us to take a step forward and move into the season. It’s about making sure we’re not getting caught up in all the distractions and keeping the focus on hockey and doing whatever we can to help the players in that aspect.”
The regular season opens up for the Broncos on September 12 against the Nipawin Hawks and for the Storm on September 14 against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.