April 09, 2007

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 ESPN.com 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 ESPN.com 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.

5 comments:

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:
http://www.swbooster.com/index.cfm?sid=22676&sc=1

Ryan Switzer's blog: http://ryanswitzer.blogspot.com/
Jon Keen's blog: http://jonkeen.blogspot.com/

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.

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