Messages of support and remembrance were everywhere in Humboldt Wednesday; before, during and after the game.
Signs with the victims’ names on them lined the driveway to the Elgar Peterson Arena. Sticks were left out by the Broncos office. Benches and railings were adorned with green and white ribbons.
Inside, the night was emotional for everyone. It was particularly emotional for the surviving players, some of whom broke down during the moment of silence and the post-game tributes.
Throughout the healing process, they have relied on a range of supports.
Wednesday, they relied on each other.
Two of the players who were on that bus were back in uniform Wednesday.
Derek Patter and Brayden Camrud were named alternate captains this year. Following the game, Broncos coach Nathan Oystrick spoke to their performances.
“I thought they were tremendous. I can’t say enough good things about either of those guys,” he said.
“They work and they work and they work. They do the little things that help us compete and help us be a good team.”
Patter and Camrud weren’t the only teammates of the crash victims to suit up Wednesday night. Reagan Poncelet and Mitchell Girolami each dressed for Humboldt last season, and have returned to the squad this year. Poncelet played in 21 regular season games with the Broncos in 2017-18, while Girolami skated in six.
Those four players embraced their struggling 2017-18 Broncos teammates during both pre- and post-game ceremonies.
Others, such as Kaleb Dahlgren, also did what they could to console their grieving friends.
Dahlgren suffered a fractured skull, a puncture wound in his head, a brain injury and six broken vertebrae.
He has graduated high school and is attending York University this year, where he has joined the school’s hockey team.
On their way to the arena Wednesday, Kaleb and his father Mark drove past the pictures of those who didn’t make it off the bus.
“I turned to him and said, ‘I’m sure glad your picture is not up there,’” Mark told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game.
“We’re the lucky ones, and we don’t take it for granted. Every day we are appreciative to still have him with us.”
Mark talked about the strength displayed by his son, who has spoken to many media outlets since the crash.
“Words can’t even say how proud we are,” he said, visibly emotional.
“We laid the foundation of values and we helped guide his decisions based on our values.
To see him take off and do that at a young age — everything he does is with purpose and it’s always grounded in values. To see him grow from that has been amazing.” Mark spoke about his son’s positivity and attitude.
“Out of the tragedy, we’ve been able to share (Kaleb) with the world,” he said.
“I don’t know anybody who is as positive as he is. He lives it and believes it. He isn’t hiding anything behind it. That’s just who he is.”
“I don’t know if it’s something that happens often, but as a parent, I actually look up to him. He’s my idol.”