The SJHL’s board of governors voted unanimously on Wednesday afternoon to have the league’s playoffs played to a conclusion. The best-of-seven final will open Saturday with the Estevan Bruins visiting the Hawks in Nipawin.
The league has been in a holding pattern since Friday when the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos to Nipawin for a game that night was involved in a crash in which 16 people died. The Hawks led that series, 3-1, at the time.
“We had a gruelling decision to make with respects on how we can pay tribute and honour the Humboldt Broncos,” SJHL president Bill Chow said in a statement. “On behalf of the board of governors, this intensive decision has been made and that decision is to carry through and finish off the 2017-18 season.
“The league will play hockey.”
The winner of the final will win the Canalta Cup and go on to play the Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion for the ANAVET Cup.
If you’re wonder, the Broncos’ organization is onside with the decision to play the final series.
“In my opinion, I think that hockey is important in our world, and it’s part of the healing process,” Broncos president Kevin Garinger told The Canadian Press. “I think it’s important to recognize that it is part of the healing process for everyone involved in this tragedy.”
Garinger also repeated that the Broncos expect to be one of the SJHL’s 12 teams when the 2018-19 season arrives.
“We know that hockey is critical for our Humboldt Broncos family,” he said. “We know that moving forward it will take time but we fully expect that the Humboldt Broncos organization will be part of the 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League schedule. We will look toward that when the time is right to consider it.”
SJHL final (best-of-seven):
Saturday: at Nipawin
Sunday: at Nipawin
Tuesday: at Estevan
Wednesday: at Estevan
Friday, April 20: at Nipawin
Sunday, April 22: at Estevan
Tuesday, April 24: at Nipawin
The Nipawin Hawks began preparations for the SJHL final at practice Wednesday afternoon, and they had a new assistant coach on the ice with them. Humboldt assistant coach Chris Beaudry, who wasn’t on the Broncos’ bus on Friday because he was driving himself to the game, had on his coaching gear and was helping the Hawks.
Later in the day, Beaudry hit send on the following tweet:
If you follow the WHL, you know that the Saskatoon Blades didn’t qualify for the playoffs and, subsequently, head coach Dean Brockman was fired.
If you are one of those people who believes that things happen for a reason, well, before joining the Blades as an assistant coach, Brockman spent 17 seasons with the Broncos, the last 10 as general manager and head coach.
With that in mind, might Brockman end up back there, charged with putting the franchise back together?
Only time will tell. In the meantime, Brockman’s thoughts on the tragedy and what has transpired are right here in a piece from CBC.
On Tuesday afternoon, I posted a piece here — The boys grab some sticks and win a game — and the response has blown me away. On Wednesday morning, Cam Hutchinson, the editor of the Saskatoon Express, asked for permission to print the story in the next issue of that newspaper. Of course, I told him to go ahead. So, if you’re in the Saskatoon area, you can watch for it in print on Monday and online on Tuesday. . . . On Wednesday afternoon, following the death of Broncos athletic therapist Dayna Brons, I updated the story to include her.
There are stories everywhere involving victims of Friday’s bus accident. Here’s one that I absolutely love. . . . Graysen Cameron is one of the Humboldt players who was hospitalized after the accident. His brother, Bretton, is the captain of the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits. He played three seasons (2007-10) with the Medicine Hat Tigers, while Willie Desjardins was the general manager and head coach. . . . Bretton badly wanted to get to Saskatoon in order to be with Graysen, but was having visa problems. It just happened that Desjardins called on Saturday to ask about Graysen. During the conversation, Bretton mentioned the visa issues. Well, it seems that Desjardins knows a lawyer through his NHL connections and, well, Bretton was on a plane to Saskatoon on Sunday. . . . These are the kinds of relationships that are forged while buses carry teams across this land.