Calgary·Video

#StrazStrong hats raise funds to support Alberta player injured in Humboldt Broncos bus crash

Friends of Ryan 'Straz' Straschnitzki are raising money for future medical costs by selling hats.

Ryan Straschnitzki, 18, suffered a spinal cord injury in the collision

Cody Thompson is a friend of Ryan 'Straz' Straschnitzki and coached him at the White Collar Boxing Company. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Those who know Ryan Straschnitzki say the Airdrie, Alta., teenager was always in a league of his own when it came to physical strength.

That strength is something friends and family of the 18-year-old say he'll need, as Straschnitzki recovers in hospital from a spinal cord injury. Nicknamed 'Straz', he is one of the Humboldt Broncos injured in the devastating crash that claimed the lives of 15 members of a junior hockey team on Friday.

#strazstrong hats are being sold to raise money for ongoing medical expenses after Ryan 'Straz' Straschnitzki returns home to Airdrie (Anis Heydari/CBC)

To support Straschnitzki and his family, friend and boxing coach Cody Thompson has started a fundraiser selling hats labelled with #strazstrong and a number 10 — Straschnitzki's number with the Humboldt Broncos — stitched in the team's colours of green and gold.

Cody Thompson is a friend of Ryan 'Straz' Straschnitzki, who was injured in the Humboldt bus crash. 1:05

After two days, Thompson said they've sold more than 100 hats and he is promising all profit to the Straschnitzki family.

The cost to make the caps is $10 and they're being sold for $30 on Facebook under the hashtag #strazstrong, with some people voluntarily paying more.

Straz's number with the Humboldt Broncos was 10. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Money to fund long-term medical costs

Thompson doesn't want his fundraiser to detract from a successful GoFundMe campaign to support everyone affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

"The amount of money that's been raised is incredible but a lot of times these numbers hit something that seems large and we lose perspective that this is going to be split between 29 different entities," said Thompson.

"Even $10 million split … the financial hardship can be something that is immense."

Ryan Straschnitzki suffered a broken back in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, according to his father, Tom. (Submitted by Tom Straschnitzki)

Straschnitzki was supposed to work for his friend and coach at the White Collar Boxing Company gym this summer. Thompson said schedules were already set and if the Broncos had lost the game they never made it to in Nipawin, Sask., Straz would have returned to Airdrie and worked his first shift at the gym on Tuesday.

"[Straz] was a very big part of our community, part of the fabric of the hockey community within Airdrie," said Thompson. 

Straschnizki's job will be waiting for him at the gym whenever he's ready to come back, according to Thompson. The 18-year-old is currently recovering in hospital.

Straschnitzki's father, Tom, said Ryan couldn't feel anything below his waist as of Saturday before undergoing surgery.

There were 29 people on the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team's bus when a transport truck collided with it near Tisdale, Sask., on Friday. Fifteen people were killed and 14 injured. The driver of the truck was not hurt.

A vigil was held at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt, Sask., to mourn the victims on Sunday night.

Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench addresses a packed arena for a vigil honouring the those killed and injured in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. 6:55

Thompson said he was devastated when he heard about the crash.

"It was the worst call I could imagine getting," he said.

Canada's hockey community is tight-knit, and Straschnitzki wasn't the only person Thompson knew on the bus that night.

Coach Darcy Haugan, who died in the collision, was Thompson's hockey coach during his rookie year with the Bonnyville Pontiacs.

Thompson hopes the fundraiser will help people cope with the shock of the tragedy. 

"It's still very hard, I think for all of us, dealing and understanding where Ryan's going to be. And knowing that we're going to be going through this and that the plan we had isn't going to take place," he said. 

With files from Dave Dormer