'We Play For Them'.
That was the mindset in Humboldt Wednesday night as another step of healing took place on the ice in the Elgar Petersen Arena. The phrase was printed on the banners and everywhere else inside the building.
In what may have been the most emotional and monumental game of hockey played in Saskatchewan's history, the Humboldt Broncos took on the Nipawin Hawks in a match up that should have happened 5 months ago in the playoffs.
A poignant pregame ceremony included presentations from top officials in the SJHL, NHL, Hockey Canada, Humboldt's Mayor, and more, and the entire game was broadcast commercial-free on international sports television.
Several survivors of the accident who have moved on and up in their hockey careers were also in attendance to support their former teammates.
Out of all the players that suited up in green and white to take the ice, only two were members of the 2017-18 team that experienced the tragic bus crash in April, Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter. Mark Edmands, who was recently transferred from the Estevan Bruins to Humboldt to fulfill the dispersal draft commitment, also saw ice time.
Michael Clarke was able to open the SJHL season, and a new season literally and figuratively for the Broncos', with a goal in the second period to put Humboldt up 2-1. But, Nipawin replied twice in the same frame and Humboldt was unable to comeback in the third, the Hawks coming away with a 2-1 victory by the numbers.
However, more than one win was seen on the ice that night. Nipawin may have had the numerical advantage on the scoresheet, but it was the Broncos that came away with a victorious hold on the hearts of the nation, and the world watching from afar, and a major step in the healing process for the months and years to come.