Skip to main content

Swift Current Bus Crash Killed Four Junior Hockey Stars

Trent Kresse. Scott Kruger. Chris Mantyka. Brent Ruff. These hockey players certainly aren't legends of the game. They never had the chance to be.

On December 30th, 1986, the Swift Current Bronco's team bus crashed en route to snowy Regina. The driver lost control of the massive vehicle, skidding off an overpass and landing on a side road. Joe Sakic and Sheldon Kennedy, the only two to-be NHLers on the team, were sitting in the front row, and escaped unscathed. Kresse, Kruger, Mantyka and Ruff, the younger brother of Buffalo Sabres' Lindy Ruff, were playing cards in the very back of the bus. All four died.

It was one of the darkest days in junior hockey history. The Broncos organization and the WHL made sure to never forget the 4 victims. Seemingly the whole city turned out for a memorial service. A touching memorial remains at Centennial Civic Center, home of the Broncos. The players jersey numbers are retired permanently. The WHL renamed it's coveted Player of the Year award as the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy.

While the Broncos and WHL were applauded for their handling of this most difficult situation, Gare Joyce at reports that 20 years later a deaf ear was turned when discussions of a 20th anniversary memorial service should happen this season.

Joyce goes on to tie the memorial with the sick legacy of coach Graham James, and how these two incidents in particular have created a curious relationship between the wounded town and hockey. Here in the heartland of rural hockey, a city and its hockey team are supposed to be greatly intertwined. But the residents of the town also referred to as Speedy Creek have shunned the Broncos.

All in all, the special is a fantastic read by Gare Joyce, the leading writer on junior hockey. I encourage all of you to take the time to enjoy this amazing read.


Robert L said…
What a compelling read - the shameful truth about how a town can close eyes. Google Cornwall and the words "sex offenders", it's been swept under a rug here too.
Anonymous said…
I would be careful about being so quick to trust the point of view of an easterner who was spent all of 5 days in Swift Current. The people of Swift Current rallied together after the accident, they rallied together to get through the terrible Graham James era and now they are sticking together through bashing of a very closely knit community that shows nothing but unwavering support of our Swift Current Broncos. I would invite you to read the following article and check out the blogs of local media personnel where Gare Joyce is having significant difficulty defending himself...

Article posted today on local news website:

Ryan Switzer's blog:
Jon Keen's blog:
Anonymous said…
Wow!!! I have lived in Swift for two years now and work at the local fire hall. I was dumbfounded by the article. It cannot be further from the truth. I hope the writer was just trying to stir up contraversy, because if he truly felt this way, he is really out of touch.
Anonymous said…
I am from Swift Current and I was 10 when this happened it happened outside of the trailer court the over pass is where I use to play as a kid. Swift Current was pained and in shock after that accident, I am now 33 and it hurts they were people they were friends and in a small community they were heros in young kids lives. The Sex Offender that is mentioned was not protected and the city was in shock and was and is embarrased by this. This little town/city is not bold, or out there as far as other places are, they are humble and keep thier lives out of the lime light in most cases. These players died, thier families changed and thier teammates are not the same and will never be the same. I remember the sirens, I remember hearing people yelling and it was a horrible night. So please if you have not lived there or known people there keep rude comments to yourself things were not swept under the rug.
Anonymous said…
this town loves this team. i go to every game. i know people who were on that bus when it crashed. and he would also go to the NHL not just sakic and kennedy. this man was affected deeply ans when he got home to his billits all they did was help. do what they could for him.without that town that team might have never healed to win the memorial the next year.

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M