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Local hockey community reacts to Humboldt Broncos fatal bus crash

UTICA, N.Y.-- A juniors hockey player spends three periods on the ice, fighting hard both to win the game and chase their dreams of becoming a professional.

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 7:36 PM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 7:37 PM

UTICA, N.Y.-- A junior hockey player spends three periods on the ice, fighting hard to win the game and chase their dreams of becoming a professional.

"It's their last shot at that hockey career that they're looking for," said Utica Comets Vice President Adam Pawlick. "You know, juniors is a big step. You are 16 years old. Most of the time, it drives you away from your hometown, you have to go play for teams that are outside your comfort zone."

The bus rides sandwiching the big games are when these near-professional teen players can be vulnerable.

"The bus culture, you know, you're playing because you love the game," Pat Conacher, Director of Hockey Operations for the Utica Comets said. "You're playing because you love your teammates, and that's what makes it easier to play the game each and every night and be on the road."

It was during one of those vulnerable moments that 10 junior players on the Humboldt Broncos hockey team lost their lives. Along with them, two coaches and three others were killed Friday night.

"I couldn't imagine losing a best friend and a teammate," Pawlick said. "Somebody you share the bus with. To know that some survived and some didn't, it's just tragic and I couldn't imagine the healing process that they're going to have to go through."

"I have a 13-year-old son that plays hockey now and I have a 16-year-old daughter," Rob Esche, the Utica Comets President said. "To think that they're not coming home is pretty impactful in a very hurtful way." 

The Utica Comets will honor the Canadian team by illuminating the Adirondack Bank Center in green and gold lights, the Bronco's team colors. They will also wear jerseys at their Friday night game that bear the word "Broncos."

"There's a lot of people that are thinking of them and there's a lot of people that are putting them in their prayers," Esche said.

A local hockey coach who works with similarly-aged students reflected on the loss of head coach Darcy Haugan, a mentor who became family to the team.

"Losing a coach on a team like that would be not only just devastating, but sincerely heartbreaking," Stacy Davignon, coach of the Clinton Boys Varsity hockey team said. "I would imagine at this point, he'd be almost irreplaceable. To be able to bring a team together, which is the most important element of a sport, it takes a special coach."

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