Alberta hockey community mourns loss of local players in Humboldt Broncos crash
15 people were killed, 14 injured in crash near Tisdale, Sask.
Alberta's hockey community has been hit hard by a devastating crash in Saskatchewan on Friday that left 15 people dead and 14 people injured — some critically.
Saskatchewan RCMP said they do not plan to release the names of the deceased on Saturday.
CBC News has confirmed that at least five of 10 players from Alberta have died and two survived the collision between the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team bus and a semi trailer.
CBC News has confirmed that five Alberta players died in the crash near Tisdale, Sask., on their way to a playoff game:
- Jaxon Joseph, 20, of Edmonton
- Stephen Wack, 21, St. Albert
- Logan Hunter, 18, St. Albert
- Conner Lukan, 21, Slave Lake
- Logan Boulet, 21, Lethbridge
Jaxon Joseph is the son of retired NHL player Chris Joseph. Raiders Bantam Director Keith Waldbillig coached him during the 2014-15 season.
"He was a very passionate hockey player when I coached him," said Waldbillig, who described him as a "great kid."
"He put up a lot of goals and was one of our go-to guys."
Stephen was the best big brother I could ever ask for.- Justin Wack, brother of Stephen Wack
Waldbillig said he texted Joseph on Friday morning to wish him luck before the game.
"He was having a great year this year," he said. "One of the top scorers on the team and a real team leader."
Stephen Wack's younger brother Justin tweeted confirmation of his brother's death on Saturday afternoon.
"Stephen was the best big brother I could ever ask for," he said in a tweet. "He was always the most selfless, modest, and humble person imaginable. The support around the hockey community means so much."
Stephen I love you.—@J_wack
His cousin, Alicia Wack, said Stephen "absolutely lived and breathed hockey" and played defence with the Broncos for two seasons.
"I am horrified to say that he did not make it," she said in a Facebook post. "Stephen has always been an amazing person, son, big brother, and cousin. He is one of the most adventurous, ambitious, and loving people that I have ever been blessed to know.
"My heart is destroyed."
Like Stephen, Logan Hunter was from St. Albert. His billet mom, Rene Cannon, confirmed his death.
"He had this smirk about him most of the time that might have made you think he was a little bit cocky, but he was truly this kind soul, that lay down on the floor and spent time with our puppies," she said, recalling his willingness to play games or mini-stick with her children.
Friends of Conner Lukan of Slave Lake expressed their grief on social media.
I took this picture of Conner Lukan in 2014 when I was working with the Spruce Grove Examiner. Thinking about the town of Slave Lake for the next little while. <a href="https://t.co/7eVQSkcIyA">pic.twitter.com/7eVQSkcIyA</a>—@kylemuzyka
CBC News also confirmed Logan Boulet of Lethbridge died in the crash. A friend said he was expected to be taken off life support on Saturday evening, and his organs would be donated to up to six people.
Boulet was described as a "caring, humble and genuine man who would do anything for anyone before himself."
St. Albert Raiders to honour victims
Joseph, Wack, Hunter and Lukan used to play for the St. Albert Midget AAA Raiders. The team is hosting a gathering on Sunday in honour of the young men.
The St. Albert Minor Hockey Association released a statement Saturday evening expressing the how a "huge void" has been left in the local hockey community.
"The St. Albert Minor Hockey Association is devastated by the news of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy and this is a deeply sensitive time for our hockey community. Hearts are broken everywhere today as notification and confirmation of three local boys from St. Albert have been taken from this world far too soon," the statement read.
"Deepest condolences to the Hunt, Joseph and Wack families, friends, and teammates, along with condolences to the Lukan family [whose] son Conner played here in St. Albert with our Raiders hockey club."
Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, who was also killed in the crash, played for the Raiders 27 years ago.
Waldbillig said the gathering will help start the grieving process for the St. Albert community and the families of those who died in the crash.
"The parents are probably all out in Humboldt ... taking care of arrangements to get their kids back here, which is absolutely heartwrenching," he added.
Waldbillig said former teammates of the Broncos players are struggling with the loss.
"There's boys that played with them now that are kind of getting the harsh reality of life," he said.
'He can't feel anything from his waist down'
Tom Straschnitzki, the father of 18-year-old Ryan Straschnitzki from Airdrie, said his son was seriously injured in the crash.
"He has a broken back. He can't feel anything from his waist down as of today," Straschnitzki said, noting that his son was set to be scheduled for surgery in Saskatoon on Saturday afternoon.
Straschnitzki also said 18-year-old Graysen Cameron from Olds survived the crash. A photo posted on Twitter shows Cameron recovering in hospital.
Immensely thankful for seeing <a href="https://twitter.com/Gcams9?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Gcams9</a> and knowing he's doing okay. Love you man, get better soon, we are here with you. 💚💛 Thoughts and prayers go out for the rest of the players, families and friends affected by this tragedy. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HumboldtStrong?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HumboldtStrong</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZW01dwOAk2">pic.twitter.com/ZW01dwOAk2</a>—@Levi0031
Straschnitzki said he hasn't heard about the status of any other players, but said those who were hurt in the crash are scattered across Saskatchewan, some in Tisdale, some in Regina and others in Saskatoon.
Straschnitzki said his family has been receiving an overwhelming number of phone calls from members of the hockey community.
"We're just a small hockey family, and everyone wants to help and give out support," he said.
"It makes it way easier, just knowing all the support that we all have."
With files from Andrea Huncar, Dave Dormer, Sarah Rieger and the Canadian Press