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Humboldt mayor thanks Amherst minor hockey team for its support

Humboldt, Sask. Mayor Rob Muench had his photo taken with members of the North Nova Penguins hockey club while attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference in Halifax last weekend. The Penguins, a youth hockey team of 10 to 12-year-olds, were wearing decals and crests honouring the Humboldt Broncos.
Humboldt, Sask. Mayor Rob Muench had his photo taken with members of the North Nova Penguins hockey club while attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference in Halifax last weekend. The Penguins, a youth hockey team of 10 to 12-year-olds, were wearing decals and crests honouring the Humboldt Broncos. - Contributed

North Nova Penguins were wearing Broncos decals, crests at Halifax hockey tourney

AMHERST, N.S. – Members of the North Nova Penguins had a special guest during their Atlantic Cup hockey tournament in Halifax last weekend.

Rob Muench, the mayor of Humboldt, Sask., was touring the Dartmouth four-ice pad as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference when he saw a green ribbon on the suit jacket of member of the Penguins coaching staff.

Muench said it was a bit of a fluke that he ran into the hockey team as he wasn't planning on participating on the FCM study tour, but changed his mind just that morning and decided to go to the new arena at Dartmouth Crossing. Then, he realized he’d forgotten his briefcase in a meeting room and was on his way back to rejoin the study group when he saw the ribbon.

“I saw this coach with a green ribbon on his suit and approached him, told him who I was and thanked him for doing that,’ Muench said. “He invited me to the dressing room to talk to his players.”

The team, a group of atom and peewee-aged hockey players, is a member of the Charlie Bourgeois-run Atlantic Hockey Group. It was playing in the Atlantic Cup in Halifax.

Soon after the bus accident that claimed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos in May, the players and coaches – who played this past winter in the Cumberland County Minor Hockey Association as well as Moncton – decided they wanted to do something to honour the memories of those killed in the crash.

“When we first started, we got the decals and had the boys put them on their helmets, but Mac Davis (another coach) suggested that it wasn’t enough, we needed to do more. So, he went out and got the patches made and the players put them on their sweaters,” Penguins head coach Forrest Gallagher said. “When you put a decal on a helmet it usually only lasts until the next season, but these guys get to keep their sweaters and they’ll have that patch on them as a reminder.”

Muench said words of support and sympathy have flowed into the Saskatchewan city since the bus crash near Nipawin, Sask. He received numerous calls from other municipal leaders from across the country in the days and weeks following the accident, including a call from the mayor of Charlottetown, where the Broncos won the Royal Bank Cup in 2003.

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He did not expect to see the Broncos’ patch and decals on a peewee hockey team at a tournament in Halifax and said it shows just how people from coast to coast, and all ages, were touched by what happened in his city.

“I told them how much we appreciate what everyone has done for Humboldt and how it has really helped our community get through this. Every little gesture like that shows how much people are standing with you and doing their little part,” Muench said. “It was nice to run into them.”

Gallagher said the players all knew about what happened to the Broncos, but it’s still tough to explain the impact of a tragedy such as that. Having the mayor of Humboldt talk to his players gave his team of 10 to 12-year-old hockey players a better understanding of what happened.

“Players at that age really don’t comprehend what happened. Their parents tell them about it, but they really don’t understand it,” Gallagher said. “Having someone there from the place where this happened helped the boys understand the impact it had on that community.”

Gallagher said his coaching staff has instilled in the players that hockey is a privilege to play and that sometimes things happen that take away that privilege or prevent others from playing the game some may take for granted.

“He really helped reinforce that message that they should hold on to the memories they have playing hockey because you never know what can happen,” Gallagher said. “It added a lot to what we were telling the boys that sometimes you can’t play because of money or because of injury. They need to enjoy every moment.”

Two months after the crash, the mayor said his city and the Broncos are continuing to heal. While he never wants another community to experience what his city has, Muench said the crash has brought his city and the entire hockey community closer together. He said the tragedy hit home across Canada not only because of the number of fatalities, but it reminded many Canadians of the time they spent on the bus traveling to hockey games in numerous communities.

darrell.cole@amherstnews.ca

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