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

Okanagan College to develop wellness strategy for drug use

The Kelowna campus has 28 employees trained in the use of naloxone.

UPDATE: Highway 97 now open at Drought Hill

A collision near Peachland has caused a backup in traffic on Highway 97

Homeless Osoyoos man allegedly doused in ice water while he slept

Community outraged at treatment of well-known homeless community member

Tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Dust advisory in affect for Kelowna

Avoid roads with heavy vehicle traffic

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Pet Planet picks up Okanagan’s cannabis for pets

True Leaf Medicine International expands retail distribution to 3,500 stores worldwide

AquaVan comes to Okanagan Science Centre

200-litre mobile touch tank allows you to get up-close with marine invertebrates

Army of support behind Black Press saleswoman battling cancer

GoFundMe helps empower Sue Folliott’s fight

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

No joke: Kelowna’s first zero-waste grocery store to open April 1

Farm Bound Zero Waste has announced its opening date

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

Most Read