In the close-knit world of hockey, several teams are mourning the loss of their former teammates who had moved on to play for the Humboldt Broncos.
At 16, Adam Herold was the captain of the Regina Pat Canadians before being called up the Broncos to help the team in playoffs.
Darin McKechnie was his head coach and told the CJME Morning Show Monday, Herold was a gifted player and an even better person with natural leadership.
“He had just a wonderful character. He was a great young man to talk to,” McKechnie commented.
“He was what I think everybody would want their sons to be, and everybody would want their daughters to bring this kid home.”
McKechnie said the team gathered at the Herold family farm and attended a vigil in the teen’s hometown of Montmarte, east of Regina, Sunday night.
“It just kind of showed you the support of the community. I mean, Adam was a big part of that community,” he said.
“Hockey always brings us together and stuff in Saskatchewan in small towns and when you’re a player like Adam, that helps. But more importantly, I just think that everybody that ever met Adam would attest to the fact of what a great young man he was.”
McKechnie was overcome with emotion as he explained he’s not just saying that because Herold is gone, but because it’s the truth.
St. Albert hockey community reeling with loss of 4 former players
The community of St. Albert, Alta., was hit particularly hard by the tragedy with connections to five of the 15 people killed on the bus.
Four former players — Logan Hunter, Jaxon Joseph, Stephen Wack and Conner Lukan — all played minor hockey with the St. Albert Raiders. Even Bronco’s head coach, Darcy Haugan, played minor hockey with the same organization decades ago.
Jack Redlick is one of the coaches for the AAA Midget St. Albert Raiders. On Sunday, he said they made the decision to open up the locker room at Akinsdale Arena for any past or present players, along with people in the community, who were grieving the loss of friends or former teammates.
“Minutes turned into a couple of hours and then all of a sudden you (could see) some smiles around the room, guys were sharing good stories,” Redlick said.
In times like these, he said teammates always come together to support each other, adding people of all ages came to share their memories.
The coach had a particularly close connection with Logan Hunter, who he mentored in his last season and helped him make the Humboldt Broncos team.
“He was a tremendous kid, a big kid but just a big teddy bear at the same time. He’s one of those individuals when you walk in a room, you’re hard pressed to find a time when he doesn’t have a smile on his face.”
The coach said Hunter excelled at school as well as sports, having won the academic scholarship for the hockey organization. After speaking to Hunter’s mother, Redlick said her wish was that the Raiders pass along the scholarship to another player in Hunter’s name.
“He was a tremendous person off the ice and it’s reflected from the friends and the network that he had that he’s kind of left behind here,” Redlick commented. “He was an unbelievable kid to coach, that’s for sure.”
While Redlick didn’t spend as much time with Wack, Joseph or Lukan, he remembers them as players and through the memories shared by their teammates on Sunday.
Wack grew up playing Bantam Hockey with the St. Albert Raiders. His parents sent a message to his friends who gathered in the dressing room Sunday. Redlick said that simple gesture speaks volumes about the family and the son they raised.
“In a time like this when life’s so tragic and horrible, they still find the time to start thinking of other people,” Redlicksaid.
“They took time out of their day to send a message back to get read for Wacker’s friends. I mean don’t even know if that would even cross my mind. When you’re trying to grieve over a lost son, and you’re still looking out for other people’s kids and his friends.”
While he didn’t coach Wack, Redlick said the teen — known as “Wacker” by his former teammates — was also a talented videographer. Since Friday, his videos, shared by his brother online, have gone viral.
Joseph, the son of former NHL player Chris Joseph, also grew up playing minor hockey in St. Albert. Even though he didn’t coach him personally, Redlick said Joseph never gave up on his dream of playing junior hockey.
“Just from hearing the stories, it sounds like the kid was an absolute warrior and one of those guys that just never quit,” Redlick said. “Tenacious — tenacity is the first word that comes to mind.”
Redlick added the stories shared by all of the former teammates left behind have a common theme.
Lukan also played for the AAA Raiders in St. Albert and in an eerie coincidence, both he and Hunter wore the number nine jersey. Redlick suggested while he is coach, no other player will wear their number.