Weekend Reads Humboldt Broncos bus crash: Former teammates gather in Stony Plain to mourn dead player originally believed alive

20:15  10 april  2018
20:15  10 april  2018 Source:   edmontonjournal.com

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Stony Plain — As news spread that an 18-year-old goaltender from Alberta was in fact among those killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, a memorial began to take shape outside Parker Tobin’s family home in Stony Plain.

Family and officials originally believed Tobin survived the Friday crash between the team bus and a semi that killed 15 people. However, Saskatchewan RCMP issued a statement Monday saying the coroner had mistaken Tobin for another player, survivor Xavier Labelle, 18. 

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Just before 5 p.m. Monday, a group of 17 young men — members of a local midget AA team, the PAC Saints — arrived at the Tobin home to pay their respects. They removed their ball caps and dropped off flowers, a poster and groceries for the family.

“He was someone I looked up to,” said 18-year-old Rhett Dempsey, who played floorball with Tobin on the Parkland Warriors. The team, which Tobin captained, won a Canada Cup in Toronto in 2015.

“He was an unreal hockey player,” he said. “He was just a great leader … just the way he made everyone feel welcome. He’d be going out for a team walk and he’d invite the boys. We’d go walking with him.”

The memorial grew to include a goalie stick, envelopes addressed to the Tobin family, a half-dozen flower bouquets and a hand-drawn Broncos logo. Green and gold ribbons were tied to trees, sign posts and fences along Briarwood Way, near the Tobin home. A steady procession of mourners arrived after work to drop off items.

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After believing Humboldt Broncos hockey player Parker Tobin had survived the team 's bus crash late last week in Saskatchewan, his family was told there had been a mistake. He was actually dead . And it was Xavier Labelle

When Dempsey’s mother told him Monday morning that Tobin had been misidentified, he couldn’t believe it.

“I had to argue with her for a bit. I thought he was OK.”

Both the Tobin and Labelle families are “grieving together,” they said in a joint statement Monday afternoon. 

“They hope the focus will remain on those grieving and those recovering, not the confusion in an unimaginable tragedy,” continues the statement, which asks that they now be given privacy. 

In addition to the 15 dead, 14 were injured in the northern Saskatchewan crash that occurred at 5 p.m. Friday.

Tobin’s former Drayton Valley Thunder team, where the goaltender spent a season in 2016-17 and was awarded best playoff performer, said a vigil will be held at the Omniplex in Drayton Valley at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Another vigil is scheduled for Wednesday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Grant Fuhr Arena in Spruce Grove. 

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“Parker was a fine young man who loved hockey and played with passion. He was a team player, a standup guy and an inspiration to his teammates,” the Thunder said on its website.

“Parker was hardworking and dedicated. He was a great player and team member. Parker was part of our Thunder family and our community. He will be sadly missed and forever in our hearts.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball offered support to the family and friends of Tobin, whose parents are from that province — his mother, Rhonda Clarke-Tobin, is from Heart’s Content and his father, Eddie Tobin, is from Bay Roberts.

“For the family and friends of Parker Tobin, whose life was lost in this tragedy, I can’t imagine the grief that you are experiencing right now and I would like to let you know that the province supports you during this difficult time,” Ball said. 

Tobin was acquired by the Spruce Grove Saints from the Thunder at the start of the 2017-18 season. He played 14 games for the Saints before being traded to the Broncos on Nov. 27, 2017. The six-foot, 185-pound goalie played 22 regular season games and five playoff games with the Broncos in the 2017-18 season.

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The Saints club posted a statement to its website Sunday offering its support to the victims and their families.

“The loss is devastating, and our team is in shock as we come to terms with this tragic accident,” Spruce Grove Saints president Rob Sklaruk wrote.

“Hockey is a tight-knit community and this has affected everyone deeply; we send our sincere condolences to all the hockey families in this very difficult time.” 

Parkland School Division, where Tobin attended class, flew flags at half mast to honour the crash victims.

Tobin, who grew up in Stony Plain, attended Forest Green School, Stony Plain Central School and was in the 2017 graduating class at Memorial Composite High School where he attended school for parts of the year while pursuing his competitive hockey career, the division said on its website. 

Another of the victims, Conner Lukan, 21, originally from Slave Lake, attended Spruce Grove Composite High School while he was a member of the Spruce Grove Saints, the division said. 

Staff and students in the division are being encouraged to wear a jersey to school on Thursday in a show of support for all those affected by the tragedy.

Stony Plain Mayor William Choy issued a statement Monday afternoon that said, “as a community, we mourn with every other community in Canada.”

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“We are once again reminded of how fragile life can be and what is truly important in our lives,” Choy stated. 

“The Humboldt Broncos tragedy has impacted our entire nation. The loss of so many lives so prematurely takes the breath from many individuals.”

Choy said the news of Tobin’s death “reaches deep into our town.”

“The Tobin family is very active in the local hockey community, and they have touched the lives of many. The Town of Stony Plain will support the Tobin family through this difficult and emotional time.”

The collision took place on Highway 35 about 30 km north of Tisdale, roughly halfway into the Broncos’ trip to Nipawin from Humboldt to continue their Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) semifinal series against the Nipawin Hawks.

A total of 15 people died, including 10 players, the bus driver, two coaches, a volunteer statistician and a broadcaster.

A vigil was held Sunday in Humboldt, drawing thousands to pay their respects.

With files from Jonny Wakefield, Postmedia

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid visits Humboldt Broncos players in hospital .
The Edmonton Oilers captain said Tuesday that he hopes his visit helped to "put some smiles on some faces" and called the visit to Saskatchewan an emotional experience.Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid travelled to Humboldt and Saskatoon on Tuesday — with Ryan O'Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres and junior hockey executive Sherry Bassin — to visit some of the families impacted and players injured in a devastating bus crash on April 6.

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