Regina Pats players are grieving the loss of former teammates and friends as they prepare to host the Memorial Cup.
Tragedy struck the hockey world when a semi collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team. Sixteen people were killed in the crash and others were sent to hospital, some remain in critical condition.
One of the players the Pats are keeping on their minds is goaltender Jacob Wasserman, who was a member of the team for a while in January due to injuries. Wasserman remains in hospital.
Along with Wasserman, Pats forward Jake Leschyshyn also knew Xavier Labelle, Brayden Camrud and Evan Thomas.
Leschyshyn said he played spring league and midget AAA hockey with Thomas, who was one of the 16 lives lost in the crash.
“He was probably the most quiet, humble guy I’ve played with, he’s just a guy that never spoke up too much, just kind of kept to himself but had a passion for the game and always worked hard and is a guy that I think a lot of guys should strive to be like,” Leschyshyn said.
He said there was a different feeling in the locker room when the players returned from their break.
“It was tough, there was a lot of hugs.”
Leschyshyn said it put everything into perspective when a tragedy like this happens.
“We sit here and talk about hockey all the time, it’s nothing in the end it’s just a game and when you lose a friend like that you just think of all the things in the future he won’t be at, whether it’s a barbecue or a family gathering, something like that, it’s tough.”
Another Pat who has a connection to the Humboldt Broncos is Jesse Gabrielle. Along with Wasserman, Gabrielle knew Conner Lukan, who also died in the crash.
Gabrielle will be playing in a benefit game in Moosomin for the Broncos Friday night.
“You’re on the bus with the boys all the time so you feel for what happened and I knew a couple guys in the accident too so it’s a good opportunity to go show support.”
Gabrielle said you never expect something like this could happen when you get onto the bus with the team.
“It’s where you bond with the guys, you’re on (the bus) for hours with them.”
He said it was good to get back into the locker room and on the ice with the team.
“After something like that happens, you realize how close you are with those guys,” Gabrielle said. “It just brings the guys closer together.”