More than two months after the tragedy that killed their teammates, 10 of the surviving members of the Humboldt Broncos will be reunited for the first time.
The members of the junior hockey team will be honored at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The NHL also plans to recognize survivors and first responders from October’s Las Vegas shooting — which occurred nine days before the Vegas Golden Knights‘ home opener — as well as the hockey team from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“It means so much to me because we haven’t all been able to meet in person at the same time,” Broncos player Kaleb Dahlgren told ESPN. “Sure, you can talk over text, FaceTime, or call, but it’s not the same as talking face to face and giving your brother a hug. I’m very thankful to be able to be with my brothers and honor those 29 people who were in the accident. The support we have received from the world has been amazing and it sure does help.”
On April 6, the Broncos, a junior hockey team of 16- to 21-year-olds, were on a bus en route to a playoff game when they collided with a truck carrying peat moss. Sixteen people, including 10 players and the team’s head coach, were killed and another 13 players were injured.
The NHL rallied to support those affected. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby wrote personal messages to each of the crash survivors. Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid were among several NHL players to pay visits to survivors and attended memorial services.
During the playoffs, the Golden Knights hosted the widow and sons of Broncos coach Darcy Haugan. After Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury spent time with Carson and Jackson Haugan, Darcy Haugan’s sons, in the team locker room. Fleury let the boys try on his gear, chatted with them and posed for photos.
The Broncos tragedy reverberated across the hockey community — and internationally. A GoFundMe account collecting funds for the Humboldt team raised more than $15 million in less than two weeks, as more than 140,000 people donated from more than 80 countries. That will be split among the 29 families affected, the team announced. It is the second-largest GoFundMe campaign globally, trailing only the $21.5 million raised for the Time’s Up legal defense fund.
Survivors of the crash have been released from hospitals at separate times and returned to their respective hometowns, all across Canada. Three of the surviving players are unable to travel to Las Vegas to attend Wednesday’s event.
Xavier LaBelle, for example, was released just two weeks ago after spending two months recovering from multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, a concussion, internal bleeding and approximately 20 broken bones, including 13 in his spine. LaBelle does not remember the crash. Neither does his teammate Kaleb Dahlgren, who told ESPN one of the hardest things he has had to deal with is not being able to attend his teammates’ funerals while still in the hospital. Dahlgren attended a Washington Capitals game during the Stanley Cup Final with his parents.