Edmonton

Humboldt Broncos player Conner Lukan remembered as 'epitome' of a teammate

Hundreds of people from his community of Slave Lake gathered Wednesday to remember Lukan, one of the 16 people killed when the Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-trailer on April 6.

Lukan was one of 16 people killed in crash on April 6

Signs, ribbons and stickers on display throughout Slave Lake on Wednesday in memory of Conner Lukan. (Carolyn Dunn/CBC)

Jamie Lukan was killed in a car crash in 1996 while travelling to play the sport he loved for the Slave Lake Wolves hockey team.

Jamie Lukan, Conner's uncle, died when he was 21 years old in a car crash on his way to play hockey. (CBC)

Twenty-two years later, Conner Jamie Lukan — named after his late uncle — was killed doing the same thing.

Both were 21; both wore number 12.

Hundreds of people from Slave Lake gathered Wednesday to remember Lukan, one of the 16 people killed when the Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-trailer on a Saskatchewan highway on April 6.

Thirteen others were injured in the crash, with several still in hospital.

It felt like the whole town of more than 6,000 showed up — vehicles lined the streets hundreds of metres from The Gathering Place, where Lukan's memorial was held.

Family and friends from all stages of Lukan's hockey career came to remember him, including Brayden Camrud, a teammate from the Broncos. 

Lukan had many different nicknames throughout his life — Connie, Lukes, Con-Man, Squirrel — but one thing was consistent: His dedication to the people around him.

Conner Lukan was one of seven players on the Humboldt team who was from Alberta. (SASWP)

"Conner was the epitome of a teammate," said Kevin Garinger, who billeted Lukan during his time in Humboldt. "He was kind, gentle and was loved."

Mike Ringrose, who coached the young player in Spruce Grove, said having Lukan in the locker room was like having another coach in the room.

"He was a player you didn't want to play against," he said. "Because that often involved him running you over and then making a play before turning around and flashing that signature Lukan smirk."

Mike Ringrose coached Lukan for three years with the Spruce Grove Saints. (Conner Lukan Memorial/YouTube)

Ringrose is now the head coach of the men's hockey team at MacEwan University and was trying to recruit Lukan to play for the MacEwan Griffins after he finished his last season with the Broncos.

He said he was looking forward to having the chance to coach Lukan again.

Tough time for Slave Lake hockey

Jeff Lukan said his nephew had a "caring heart" and always did what he felt was right, regardless of what anyone said.

"Conner left this life too early, but he was fulfilled," Lukan said. "He lived loving what he was doing, who he was with and the family that he had. 

"How can we be so sad for a man, a brother, a nephew, a friend, who was so fulfilled?"

Conner Lukan as a young player in the Slave Lake Minor Hockey Association. (Conner Lukan Memorial/YouTube)

It has been a tough six months for the tight-knit Slave Lake hockey community. Last November, Tyler Emes was found dead in Edmonton. Emes, 18, was also a Slave Lake minor hockey alumnus and a cousin of Lukan's.

The theme of Wednesday's memorial was something Conner Lukan might have said: tighten your skates. Tighten your skates and keep going.

That's what the Lukans and the community say they plan to do.

About the Author

Kyle Muzyka

Journalist

Kyle Muzyka is a Métis journalist on secondment for CBC Unreserved. He's worked at CBC Yellowknife and at CBC Edmonton for more than three years. Reach him at kyle.muzyka@cbc.ca.