'He's changed this community': Members of church gather to remember Humboldt Broncos statistician

At 18-years-old, Brody Hinz was just coming into his own man, a man of faith, a man willing to help others, a sports statistician, and of course, a man who loved his local hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos.

Brody Hinz, 18, died in Sask. hockey team bus crash

Sharon Strueby, Brody Hinz's aunt, said she invited people to come and share their memories of Hinz at his funeral in Humboldt this Saturday, as she said, “Celebrate the life of Brody; take him wherever you go.” (Submitted)

At 18 years old, Brody Hinz was just becoming his own man: a man of faith, a man willing to help others, a sports statistician, and of course, a man who loved his local hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos.

On Sunday morning, members of Hinz's Westminster United Church gathered to remember him, with the church full of his friends and family, recalling the team statistician who did not survive Friday night's Humboldt Broncos team bus crash in Saskatchewan. Fifteen people died from the Friday collision between a bus carrying the Broncos and a tractor trailer. Another 14 were injured.

"There's a lot of tears, but we leaned into each other," said Rev. Brenda Curtis, adding that support is what will give the community strength to get through the tragedy. "I think that's the thing that will provide a path through this, a way through this."

Hinz's father, Dale, had passed away at a young age, and his mother Darlene raised him and his younger sister on her own, but the church was there throughout his upbringing, said Curtis.

"This community just really walked that journey with Brody."

A sports lover, through and through

As he grew up, Hinz developed a passion for sports. It was common for him to sport a jersey, and to encourage others to wear the jersey, whether it was for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, or the local junior hockey team, the Broncos.

"It was his life," church member Willy Kosokowsky said of Hinz and his connection to sports.

"And he loved the Broncos, there was no question."

Rev. Brenda Curtis and Willy Kosokowsky at Westminster United Church. (Karen Pauls/CBC News)

Hinz often spent late nights on the road with the Broncos, coming home to grab a couple hours of sleep, before waking up for the church's sunrise service.

His faith and sports would blend together as well. When he would hear about a Roughrider injury or accident, he was quick to come to Curtis, and ask her if the church could pray for the player.

"We sure can, Brody," Curtis would tell him.

"He would do that. He connected us all in so many ways."

Potential cut short

Curtis said her sadness lay in the fact that she had felt that big things lay ahead for Hinz, that he was going places.

But in his short life, those who knew him agreed he had already made an impact, as a friend, as a family member, a volunteer, and a mentor to the young children he taught in Sunday school.

"He's changed this community, there's no question about it," said Curtis.

Watching a NHL game featuring the Jets and the Blackhawks, she thought of Hinz when she saw the name of his beloved team, the Broncos, on the back of every player's jerseys.

She sent a thought to the young man she'd watched grow up.

"'Brody, I hope you're watching this' — because he would have been thrilled."

with files from Karen Pauls