PEACE RIVER, Alta.—A junior hockey coach who was killed in a deadly bus crash that scarred the nation was honoured this weekend with a bronze statue unveiled in the Alberta town where he grew up and coached another team to five league championships.
Darcy Haugan, 42, was one of 16 people who died after the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team’s bus and a semi collided at a crossroads in Saskatchewan on April 6, 2018.
Haugan was remembered over the weekend as a coach who pushed his players to bring their very best to the rink and to their personal lives.
"We were all devastated when we heard the news in April 2018. Like many in our community, it was hard to digest, hard to comprehend what had happened," town councillor Orren Ford said at the unveiling of the statue on Saturday in Peace River, Alta., occasionally wiping away tears.
Thirteen others were injured were injured in the crash.
Prior to joining the Broncos, Haugan, who was a devout Christian, coached the North Peace Navigators in the Northwest Junior Hockey League for 12 seasons.
Navigators president Albert Cooper said discussions began about how they wanted to remember Haugan about a month after the tragedy. Ideas like naming a building or a street after Haugan were also considered.
"I actually felt a statue would be unique—a nice addition for our town," he said in an interview Sunday.
The statue, which is three-quarters life-size and weighs over 190 kilograms, was cast by Don and Shirley Begg of Studio West in Cochrane.
The bronzesmiths’ body of past work touches on themes of tragedy and hockey. It includes a sculpture honouring four RCMP officers who were gunned down in Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005, as well as helping with sculpting the Wayne Gretzky statue that now stands outside Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Don Begg said the artists wanted to illustrate Haugan’s coaching philosophy with the piece.
"He wanted them to be not just good hockey players, but good community people," Begg said of Haugan when reached by phone on Sunday.
"That’s what we were trying to portray in him."
Attendance at the ceremony outside Baytex Energy Centre had to be limited due to COVID-19, although his widow, Christine, sons Carson and Jackson, and parents were there.
"I can tell you without a doubt, Darcy would be in complete disbelief seeing this," Christina Haugan told the small crowd.
Ford said Haugan saw his players as "full and complete men, not just as hockey players."
"He made it his mission to mold them into men he knew they could be—men who cared about their family and their community in addition to their team and the sport of hockey," he said.
By Rob Drinkwater