author: konstantin kharitonov | sports editor
Humboldt still strong / Wikimedia Commons
Humboldt on path to the SJHL playoffs with new coach
On Apr. 6, 2018, tragedy struck the hockey world and all of Saskatchewan when a semi-trailer collided with the Humboldt Broncos bus, killing 16 people on board, injuring another 13. The team had been devastated and left the entire country in a state of disbelief and mourning.
During the official press conference, while fighting back tears the CEO of the SHJL, Bill Chow, and the president of the team, Kevin Garinger, announced that the team will do all it can so that the team can return to the ice and compete in the 2018-19 SJHL season. Eight months later, not only is the team succeeded on competing, but they are thriving.
Currently, the Broncos sit at a 24-15-2-1 record on the season, good enough for sixth place in the standings. For a team who had to completely rebuild itself from such adversity, it is currently amazing at what they have accomplished so far into the season, sitting comfortably in a playoff spot 42 games into the season.
Unfortunately for the team, the scars of the tragedy still sting with everyone involved with the team, leading to a considerable turnover since the summer. Garinger, as mentioned above, stepped down from his position in August, and was replaced with Jamie Brockman. Tyler Smith, who suffered a broken collarbone and shoulder blade as well as nerve damage in his left arm, returned to the team a month into the season stepped away from the team in order to recover from his injuries at home.
Another key departure for the team was head coach and general manager Nathan Oystrick, who stepped down on Dec, 26, 2018. In a tweet, he mentions the difficulty of being in the position, and how it was necessary for him and the team to step away from the organization.
“Despite the extreme stress and constant pressure of working with the organization, I gave them everything I possibly could,” Oystrick tweeted.
“I am proud of their performance and mine this season.”
The amount of stress there is rebuilding the Broncos after the crash is impossible to even imagine, which is why it is understandable why the decision to leave the organization from a personal level.
In a press release, the Broncos thanked Oystrick for what he was able to accomplish for the team.
“The Broncos wish to thank Nathan for his work with the organization and wish him the very best in all his future endeavors.”
In turn, the Broncos promoted assistant coach Scott Barney to interim head coach for the rest of the season.
Barney is a veteran of the game, working in professional hockey for 16 years, and he is ready to lead the team in a positive way.
“We’re just going to move forward,” Barney said to the Humboldt Journal. “The big thing for me is to be positive of the players in there. They’ve been through enough things and they’ve been great all year, came together as a team.”
And they are going to need that kind voice in the room heading forward. The team is still rebuilding, and it’s a tough position for any coach to step into a position like this and lead.
Barney mentions how the team has bonded this season, coming together as a group leading to the impressive record that the team has given the circumstances.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed here is the guys have really come together and that was from day one of training camp.”
It was something that the Broncos’ bench needed desperately for them to rebuild the franchise on a positive note. Two players that were originally on the bus during the crash, Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter, were able to return to the team, bringing forth a boost to the team that they sorely needed in order to get on the right footing.
Barney mentioned the team’s spiritwhen talking about the team’s journey so far.
“The biggest thing I see is the competitiveness in practice, in games and in the room when they’re doing anything. They have that competitive feel to them and, when I see that, I think we have something special going on here.”
The Broncos have 16 games remaining in their season until the beginning of the playoffs, but it is safe to say now matter how far the team goes, it has already been a successful season. The team does have something special, and it is encouraging that the Broncos are in good hands with Scott Barney leading the way as head coach. If there was any team that needed it, it is definitely the Broncos.