For all that the community of Humboldt has been through over the past several months, a little bit of joy washed over the rural Saskatchewan town on Friday.
Humboldt hasn’t left the minds of those in hockey communities around the world since a tragic bus crash tore through the hockey world and claimed the lives of 16 players and team staff on April 6.
Chandler Stephenson of the Washington Capitals, a Saskatoon native, made a promise before the playoffs began that if they won he’d take it to Humboldt.
It was a classy gesture at a time when a community was stricken with grief, but on Friday, the Stanley Cup champion got a chance to make good on the pact he made just days after the horrific accident as Lord Stanley paid a visit to the town of 6,000 as part of Humboldt Hockey Day organized by the NHL and the NHLPA.
The Cup made an emotional stop at the site of the crash at the intersection of Highway 35 and 335, where a memorial now stands with crosses bearing the names of those lost along with hockey sticks, flowers, stuffed animals and other tokens of remembrance.
Philip Pritchard, the ‘Keeper of the Cup’, tweeted out, “While their Stanley Cup dreams went unfulfilled, we thought we’d bring Stanley to them. God Bless,” along with pictures of the Cup in the middle of the memorial site.
From there, it went to Humboldt’s home rink, Elgar Petersen Arena, where Stephenson was joined by several NHLers, including Brayden Schenn, Brayden McNabb and Brett Kulak along with around 3,500 people from the town.
The Canadian Press reported that Stephenson met with some of the parents of the players involved in the crash.
“It’s tough … listening to some of the parents,” Stephenson said. “It’s tough to talk to them (to) … give your condolences. Nothing can replace a life, so you just try to help out as much as you can and that’s what this day is all about.”
Stephenson used to play with members of the Broncos, including Kaleb Dahlgren, who was one of 13 to survive the crash.
“That means so much to me,” Dahlgren told CP. “I know those people that lost their lives there would really appreciate that. I appreciate it too. It’s nice to honor that and it really does mean a lot.”