728 x 90

Deeg helping Humboldt heal


The tragedy that was the Humboldt Broncos bus crash resonated with millions of people around the world.
Sixteen lives were lost and 13 others were injured and left to carry on as best they could.
The families and community were left in shock and, unwillingly, Humboldt became the focus of the hockey world.
But, as in all things, life goes on. Painfully sometimes, but life still goes on.
The Broncos decided to rebuild their team and continue playing in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and a face familiar to hockey fans in Dauphin is helping to heal the scars left by the accident that affected so many lives.
Originally from Wynyard, Sask., about an hour from Humboldt, Tyrol Deeg spent six years as trainer for the Dauphin Kings from 2008 to 2014. After a season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League, Deeg spent the last three seasons with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers.
Deeg, who attended the Kings final home game before the Christmas break with his family, Dec. 22, found out about the bus accident like everybody else.
“We were at home and my dad called me. It must have been no more than 15 minutes after it happened. And just like everybody else, we started following it online,” he explained.
Not long after, Deeg and his wife discussed moving closer to home.
“Because we were pretty far away in B.C., from our families,” he added.
Deeg continued to follow the Broncos’ story. After Humboldt hired Nathan Oystrick as their new head coach, Deeg submitted a resumé to become the team’s athletic therapist, replacing Dayna Brons, who died a few days after the accident.
After about four weeks, Deeg received a call from the Broncos informing him he was on their short list. A week later, he was told he was one of three finalists.
“So we got in the vehicle and drove all the way from Salmon Arm through the night and got to my parents’ place around two o’clock in the morning,” he said.
Deeg was on his way to Humboldt by 10 a.m. the next day. Following an interview, Deeg and his family returned home to Salmon Arm, where they received a call from the Broncos the day after arriving home, offering him the job.
“We had three or four days to make a decision and we decided to go to Humboldt,” he said, adding his wife and son arrived in Humboldt about a month after he did.
Deeg started his new job eight days before training camp started, so there was a lot of work to be done.
And it was almost like starting from scratch.
“When I went for the interview the first week in August, the dressing room and the trainer room, it was basically the way it was when they left that day,” he said.
“We had all new helmets, all new equipment from scratch. They ordered new skate sharpeners, road trunks, all that kind of stuff. It was pretty much from scratch because anything that was on the bus was for insurance.”
People in Humboldt were looking forward to the new season, right up until the season opener, which was broadcast on TSN.
There were a lot of nervous people excited for the new season, Deeg said, but the ceremony revealing the banners with the names and numbers of everyone involved in the accident following the game was tough for everyone.
“I wasn’t around there and I didn’t know everybody, but you got to meet all the people that knew everybody. And it was tough standing on the bench that night. It was tough,” he said.
There are always reminders of the tragedy that befell the organization. Just recently, the banners revealed in the ceremony following the season opener were raised to the rafters of the Elgar Petersen Arena.
“It’s something to see it up in the rafters. You’re reminded all the time. Even being here, everywhere we go, they have that green banner. Everybody has got the sticker on the helmet,” he said.
On the ice, after losing their first two games, Humboldt won six in a row and entered the Christmas break with a record of 21-13-2-1 for 45 points, good for second place in their division. But they have struggled recently, going 2-7-0-1 in their last 10 games.
The survivors of the crash are inspirations to people of all walks of life. According to Deeg, goaltender Jacob Wasserman, who is from Humboldt, visits quite a bit.
“The guys, every time they see him, they see him in the wheelchair and he has a real good attitude about everything. Even when I’m around him and you talk to him, whatever you’re worrying about that day, it just goes away,” he said.
Two survivors, Derek Patter and Brayden Camrud, have resumed their hockey careers with the Broncos and are enjoying good seasons.
“Those guys, I don’t know how they did the first month. It was tough on us and I can’t even imagine for them. They handled it well,” Deeg said.
Another survivor, Tyler Smith, made a brief comeback before stepping away to concentrate on his recovery. Other survivors have returned to Humboldt to visit occasionally. And they all have smiles on their faces, Deeg said.
Other teams throughout the SJHL have been supportive of the Broncos as they rebuild. In Flin Flon, the Broncos were presented two cheques totalling about $40,000 which was raised in that community.
“A lot of stuff like that. Obviously, everyone wears the stickers. Everybody cheers for us everywhere we go. It’s kind of cool,” he said.
“Everywhere we go, you see the Broncos jerseys. It’s pretty good when you’re on the road and you get that kind of support. And it’s been everywhere.”
Some of the money the team received through fund-raising efforts have gone to upgrades in the arena. And money raised from a GoFundMe page was recently distributed among the families.
A permanent memorial is also in the works at the crash site, as well as some monuments around Humboldt.
The first month was tough, Deeg said, but he knew it would be.
“I don’t know if I’d want to do it over again. I took the job and I had seven or eight days to get stuff ready for camp. It was 20 hour days for about a week straight,” he said.
“It was tough, but now we’re back to playing games after we got through that first game. It’s been pretty good.”
And, he added, it is nice to be home where his son can see his grandparents.
“I grew up in Saskatchewan. I started in the SJHL. It’s been fun to be back,” he said.
“It’s nice being here (in Dauphin), too. I was here for six years. Not too much has changed here, but it’s nice to see all the old faces.”

Doug Zywina