2018 was a year full of challenging stories, and as it ends, we're re-sharing some of the most important ones, along with our readers.
Happy holidays to you and yours, and wishing you a good start to 2019.
Grief and heartbreak are rising to the surface as the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan are identified. But those who knew them — including the head coach, the team captain, the phenom, a radio announcer and a rookie stats keeper — are also paying tribute with fond memories.
The junior hockey team's bus was on the way to a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks in northeastern Saskatchewan when it collided with a truck on Friday afternoon.
Sixteen people are dead and the RCMP has said 13 others were injured.
My big little brother, Darcy. The tears just keep coming... pic.twitter.com/HyhpQ4PIhe— invisigirlonfire (@DebbieJayneC) April 7, 2018
Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, 41, is being remembered as an amazing mentor to young players.
Steven Wilson, a radio play-by-play announcer in Weyburn, Sask., called Haugan "the classiest guy" in the league who always had time to chat.
Here's a few words my brother shared... pic.twitter.com/BQEDARi1xG— Lauren Dyck (Mr.) (@LaurenJDyck) April 7, 2018
"He will always be a great man in our hearts," his sister posted on Twitter. "The tears just keep coming."
"He was just this great playmate and someone I could torment, someone I could play ball with. We were a sports family — he and I played a lot of sports in our backyard," Deborah Carpenter said of her little brother, in an interview with the Globe and Mail.
Before becoming a coach, Haugan played junior hockey in the league in the 1990s.
Originally from Peace River, Alta., he was married and had two sons. His wife Christina George-Haugan, who is also the team's office manager, confirmed his death to The Canadian Press.
Assistant coach Mark Cross was a native of Strasbourg, Sask., according to the StarPhoenix, and was in his first year behind the bench with Haugan.
Graeme Cross said in an online tribute that his cousin was a caring and generous young man with an amazing smile: "Mark was one of those people that just made you feel safe and brought a special spark when you were in his presence."
Cross was a junior hockey player in Estevan, Sask. and then also played hockey at York University, according to DiscoverWeyburn.com
York University described Cross as an "exceptional young man" and a "ferocious competitor."
"There was no one in the room that commanded more respect than Mark. To say we were proud that he was giving back by becoming a coach would be an understatement. Mark was in his element in the hockey arena and I could think of no better mentor for junior hockey players to have than Mark Cross. He has been taken away from us much, much too soon," York Lions head coach Russ Herrington said.
Team captain Logan Schatz, 20, played centre for the Broncos for just over four years and had served as team captain for the past two-and-a-half years, according to his father, Kelly Schatz.
The native of Allan, Sask. was named the league's player of the month in February after earning points in eight of nine games.
"It's hard," said Schatz. "I've got four other kids and they're here, which is nice."
Schatz was known for his kindness. Two days before the crash, he went to the Humboldt Tim Hortons drive-through and paid not only for his own bill, but for the person behind him as well. People are now remembering him by bringing Timmies over to his family's home, the Calgary Herald reported.
Forward Jaxon Joseph, 20, was among the leading scorers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs, playing on a line with Schatz.
The winger's death was confirmed by the Surrey Eagles, his former team in the British Columbia Hockey League.
Joseph's father, former NHLer Chris Joseph, was reportedly told his son had survived the accident before later finding out that he had actually died in the crash.
He told CTV News that he's visited the funeral home where his son's body is twice to see him.
"I kissed him and told him, 'We're so proud. We're so proud," he said. "He's just a good kid. Everybody really just loved him."
In a profile published on the team's website in January, Schatz paid tribute to Joseph and fellow linemate Conner Lukan, who also died in the crash.
"I've really clicked with Joseph and Lukan. I can't say enough good things about them," Schatz said.
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Adam Herold, 16, of Montmartre, Sask. was the youngest player on the Broncos team. His 17th birthday would have been Thursday.
According to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Herold was called up to the Broncos for the playoffs after his run as captain of the Regina Pat Canadians of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League ended in March.
"He was so down-to-earth and was the most kind-hearted kid I knew," Pat Canadians forward Matt Culling told the StarPhoenix. "His presence in the locker room always pushed for our team to be better — not just better hockey players, but better human beings. He had a laugh that could spark a room and a smile that could lighten it."
"He was a wonderful young man. Never afraid to help his teammates. Always there for them. Good, typical Saskatchewan farm boy. Always load the bus, unload the bus, never afraid to roll up his sleeves and get work done,'' Pat Canadians manager John Smith said.
Smith said Herold is survived by his mom, dad and an older sister.
21-year-old Stephen Wack played for the Broncos for two seasons. His cousin Alicia Wack told The Canadian Press that he did not survive the crash.
On her Facebook page, she said her cousin made the best gingerbread houses and "absolutely lived and breathed hockey."
"Stephen has always been an amazing person, son, big brother, and cousin. He is one of the most adventurous, ambitious, and loving people that I have ever been blessed to know," she added.
Wack's family put out a statement, read by Curtis Peck, Wack's best friend, according to the Edmonton Journal.
"Our boy Stephen was truly one of a kind. He was incredible, smart, quick-witted, and a devoted athlete. His heart was as big as his six-foot-five body and his compassion for others was woven into his deepest character."
A native of Slave Lake, Alta., 21-year-old Conner Lukan joined the Broncos this season, the Edmonton Journal reported. He was one of seven Albertans on the team.
He played three seasons for the Spruce Grove Saints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and his former coach Jason McKee told the Journal he was a hard worker.
"On the ice he was one of the most ferocious competitors you'll find and he was a tremendous teammate ... his courage was through the roof," McKee said.
Evan Thomas, 18, came from a family with a history in hockey. His dad Scott Thomas is the president of the Saskatoon Blazers, and used to play for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
His dad said Thomas played both hockey and baseball, and was also a strong student.
"He liked sports, but at times I think he tolerated sports so he could be a teammate," Thomas said. "He just loved being a teammate. He loved his teammates and I think that was more important to him than the actual sport he was playing.
"He loved those boys. He really loved those boys."
The Saskatchewan's coroner office confirmed Monday goaltender Parker Tobin was also killed in the crash.
It was Tobin's first season with the Broncos after being traded from the Spruce Grove Saints.
He was previously misidentified as 18-year-old defenceman Xavier Labelle.
On Monday, his most recent Instagram post was flooded with comments from friends and strangers.
The Labelle and Tobin families put out a statement saying they are grieving together after the mistake was cleared up.
His uncle spoke about Tobin at a city council meeting in Bay Roberts, N.L and said that he was a good kid who was an incredibly skilled player, the Telegram reported.
"I know everybody who has kids in hockey, they all think they're going to the NHL, but Parker really had that potential – the kid had what it took."
The RCMP confirmed the death of Logan Boulet of Lethbridge, Alta. after his family said he was being kept on life support so that his organs could be donated.
According to a family statement given to Global News, Boulet's organs will help at least six people. They said he signed his donor card as soon as he turned 21.
Boulet spent two years with the Lethbridge Hurricanes Midget AAA team before moving on to play for the Broncos.
"He was a great kid who really loved his family and hockey,'' his uncle Daniel Boulet wrote on Facebook.
His dedication to donating his organs inspired many others to register as donors after his death.
"That's probably the biggest positive that can come out of this is that... there's gonna be a lot of people who are going to carry on lives and be healthy," his parents told Global News.
They also shared that he was "living his dream" playing for the team.
"He loved the Broncos, he loved what the Broncos did for him, he loved the city of Humboldt, he loved the people there, he loved everything."
Broncos play-by-play radio announcer Tyler Bieber worked for the Humboldt station 107.5 Bolt FM, and often travelled with the team.
Steven Wilson, a co-worker in Weyburn, Sask., said it was Bieber's first season announcing for the team, and also covered morning news.
"He definitely had a natural talent," said Wilson. "He was just passionate about sports."
He moved from Regina back to his hometown of Humboldt, where he covered junior hockey and also coached high school basketball and football there, said Bucholz.
"Tyler was a shining example of what it means to serve a community," said Lyndon Friesen, president of Golden West Broadcasting, which owns Bolt FM.
The team's volunteer statistician, Brody Hinz, 18, worked with Bieber at 107.5 Bolt FM.
"He had an amazing mind for stats and he was a huge asset to the coaching staff," Humboldt Broncos president Kevin Garinger told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
Friesen said Hinz had recently joined the radio station and was being mentored by Bieber.
James Folster, who mentored Hinz after his father passed away when he was eight and also worked with him through the community soup kitchen, said he would be missed forever.
"His generous spirit, his quietness, his gentleness, his loving kindness for people ... animals. It just softened my heart and helped me immensely," he told Global News.
"His character was second to none. He was helpful, polite, kind, loved to work with people, loved children — just an all-around good guy."
The night of the crash marked a double tragedy for the Hinz family. A relative said on Facebook that another family member lost a baby boy in the Humboldt hospital shortly after he was born.
Logan Hunter, 18, "always had a smile on his face,'' said Kevin Porter, president of the St. Albert Raiders, where the teen used to play in his Alberta hometown.
Porter describedHunter as a "smart kid and a great hockey player'' with a "great sense of humour."
The right-winger left St. Albert to join the Humboldt Broncos in March 2017, reported the Edmonton Journal.
Hunter's mother told the St. Albert Gazette she was still in shock over her son's death.
"Has it sunk in? No. It sure hasn't sunk in yet that's for sure but I'm reaching out to my friends and my family, Logan's older sisters' Shaye and Shelby. We will be together and we will get though this together somehow."
Jacob Leicht, 19, told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix last month that winning the SJHL championship for his hometown of Humboldt would be unforgettable.
The left winger played nine games in the playoffs, scoring once.
He's being remembered for his laugh and bright smile. A family member wrote on Facebook that her heart is broken.
"Your laughter is so contagious and you had a smile that lit up any room,'' Cassidy Tolley wrote in her public post.
"Jacob was a really good player," his uncle told the Great Falls Tribune. "He was fast with a really good shot. He was a grinder and was really excited about playing with the Humboldt Broncos. Because he was from Humboldt."
The driver of the Humboldt Broncos' bus was confirmed killed in the crash by a representative of his family and friends, according to the StarPhoenix. Glen Doerksen was described as a family man who was "always quick to smile."
A Facebook post by The Kinistino Tigers, another team whose bus Doerksen drove, also mentioned his family focus and love of hockey: "... he spoke at length of his time in rinks with his own family and now how much he enjoyed being able to take and watch other teams from minor, to senior to SJHL to their hockey games.
"We will never forget the smile on your face as we left Allan after winning the Championship and got you to give 'two honks for the Cup.' Tonight Glen, we give two honks for you. Rest easy Sir."
Charlie's Charters, the official carrier for the Humboldt Broncos, also wrote on Facebook: "Glen was an outstanding friend, husband, and father. He will truly be missed."
Dayna Brons, 25, died in hospital on April 11, 2018. She suffered serious head trauma in the crash and had been in an induced coma. Her family announced her passing in a statement.
"Dayna will be forever remembered for her joyful smile, and her passion and love of sport. She was the Athletic Therapist for the Humboldt Broncos and was extremely proud to be part of the Broncos family," relatives said. Brons' family thanked first responders, medical staff, and all Canadians who sent their love and prayers.
Lacrosse and soccer teams that Brons also worked with had offered their support for the keen, happy trainer on social media. So did Canadian women's hockey Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser.
"The only girl on the boys team' ... Dayna I've been thinking of you a lot! Praying you pull through," she said.
After the news was released by her family, Wickenheiser expressed her condolences.
"The worst news," she wrote. "RIP Dayna. The boys will take care of you up there."
Many of the 13 people who survived the crash have a long road ahead. Players Brayden Camrud, Bryce Fiske, Matthieu Gomercic and Xavier Labelle were injured. Gomercic has since been released from hospital.
Graysen Cameron, Nick Shumlanski and Derek Patter all survived the crash too. Patter's father posted a sweet photo of the three players holding hands as they recovered. Shumlanski has now been released from the hospital.
Derek Grayson and Nick bonding and healing in hospital pic.twitter.com/DzesIoT27B— R J patter (@rjpatter) April 7, 2018
Tyler Smith was also injured in the crash, according to a spokesperson for his former team, the Drayton Valley Thunder Junior A, who spoke with Global News. He broke his collarbone and shoulder blade and has some vascular and nerve damage on his left side, his dad shared on Facebook.
Assistant captain Kaleb Dahlgren, a Type 1 diabetic who relies on insulin, suffered severe injuries in the crash, the StarPhoenix said. His father posted on Twitter that he is in stable condition.
Humboldt native Morgan Gobeil was also heavily injured, and several early reports claimed he had died in the accident. His brother and a few of his other loved ones got matching tattoos of his heartbeat from the ICU in his honour.
Layne Matechuk is in a coma and recovering from head and upper body injuries. He is listed as stable but serious condition.
Ryan Straschnitzki is in the hospital with a broken back and will be having surgery. His family told CBC News he can't feel anything from below the waist. Being paralyzed hasn't stopped his hockey dreams, and he reportedly told his family he was determined to win Olympic sledge hockey gold. He told Sportsnet that he was texting his girlfriend when the crash happened and blacked out upon impact, when he woke up his instinct was to try and help.
"I kept calling out guys' names and asking if there was anything I could do,"he said.
"All I wanted to do was just help my teammates, but I just couldn't move my legs.
Goaltender Jacob Wasserman also suffered injuries to his back and requires surgery. His aunt told the StarPhoenix he could be paralyzed from the waist down.
With files from The Canadian Press
CORRECTION: April 9, 2018: Due to a Saskatchewan coroner's office error, a previous version of this story misidentified Xavier Labelle as one of the victims of the bus crash. Labelle is injured but alive. Goalie Parker Tobin was killed in the crash.
CORRECTION: Conner Lukan's name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.
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