Air Canada Centre World Cup Of Hockey Seating The Four Broncos – The Story of the Tragic Bus Crash That Killed Four Hockey Players

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The Four Broncos – The Story of the Tragic Bus Crash That Killed Four Hockey Players

It sent a deafening silence throughout the hockey world and beyond.

On December 30, 1986 at 3:45 p.m., the unthinkable happened. Two days after the Christmas break, the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos were making a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Regina, Saskatchewan, when their 1968 Western Flyer team bus went off a freeway overpass and hit a sign. then he first slid down the embankment. It flew about 50 feet in the air, landing on its side when it skidded to a stop.

Four players were dead: Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka.

The scene was chaotic. The trench was littered with sleeping bags, blankets, pillows and personal belongings. Two ambulances drove back and forth to Swift Current Union Hospital, and passing motorists were flagged down by police to help transport the less seriously injured to medical attention.

The day before temperatures were unusually high – almost T-shirt weather, but at the time of the crash a weather advisory was in effect – cold and blizzard. Regular club coach Gord Hahn was in Winnipeg with Team Western, a pre-Olympic scouting program with player Dan Lambert. Ryan McGill also missed the trip due to a bout with angina.

The plan was to have the bus loaded and ready to go by 3:00pm to arrive at the rink in Regina at 6:45pm. However, Scotty Kruger forgot his dress and was ordered to go home and retrieve it. (Players often traveled in comfortable clothing and changed on the bus after arriving at their destination.)

The bus itself was probably in need of repair. It still had the old green and blue from when it served the Lethbridge, Alberta team. There was no bathroom on board, some windows were taped over and the seats had tears and many stains.

Dave Archibald (who was cleared of any negligence) had just driven the bus onto a turn onto the motorway overpass when it hit a patch of black ice. Subsequently, there was a scene from a horror movie inside the bus.

One of the players, wearing shorts, a t-shirt and no shoes, was knocked down and woke up over the other. The bus was on its side. Searching for his shoes, he returned to where he was sitting, picked up the seat that had been ripped off, and saw the legs of a teammate whose torso was buried under the bus. He then discovered another player, his upper body pinned inside with his legs under the bus – arms reaching out for help as he died in front of him.

Kruger and Kresse played on the same line, had adjacent lockers, were friends and always together. They were found two feet apart. At the time, the two were tied for second in team scoring behind Joe Sakic.

Sakic got out of the bus by climbing through the broken windshield.

“I was sitting in the front of the bus. Sheldon Kennedy and I were probably talking about the Christmas holiday we just had.”

Four players were playing a card game in the back of the bus. The coroner said they died of spinal cord injuries.

The Regina game was cancelled, as were the other three.

“It was the middle of the year, so it was difficult to get back into the season,” adds Sakic. “That was tough – the first game back. We did really well the season after that. I think we finished second or third and got knocked out in the second round.

“It brought the whole town closer together. From day one, everyone was so nice to all the players. It was our first year. They tried to make us feel at home. Even after that, they pulled together even more.” “

Memorial service

Nearly 4,000 attended the service held at the Swift Current Centennial Civic Center on January 4, 1987. Every WHL division and team was represented by players and officials. Each player was buried in their hometown.

Kruger’s uncle Herman Kruger (67) unfortunately suffered a fatal heart attack on the way to the funeral.

Aftermath

Over the next two seasons, the Broncos set several team and league records and won the Memorial Cup in 1988-89.

According to one of the parents, there was no insurance or psychological help.

A lot of players had a hard time. Some became reckless and ran wild around town, quit hockey, became depressed, or suppressed their emotions. All remain haunted by the experience.

Joe Sakic kept it to himself. He rarely talks about it. “The best was at practice and games – that was the best time to get away. You just focused on hockey.”

“It was the first time I’ve had a tragedy in my life. A certain reality sets in. You’re a little more careful about the things you decide to do. You’re probably weighing the options.”

The incident was the first fatal crash in WHL history, but not the first close fight. Freezing rain caused a Kamloops Chiefs bus crash in the mid-1970s and a Victoria Cougars bus crash in 1980 near Butte, Montana. Another bus carrying a group of Canadian Pacific Railway workers crashed, killing 22, in Swift Current just six years before the Bronco crash.

Fortunately, teams are more cautious today. Calgary Hitmen director of public relations and play man Brad Curle talked to several drivers about it. “The weight of the bus has almost increased to the point where it’s virtually impossible for it to go off the freeway. I think the way it’s engineered and structured, it just hugs the freeway.”

Teams, for the most part, charter. Of the few teams that own buses, they are newer models – more than 2,000 and refurbished.

Since the Bronco incident, the Western Hockey League has placed a high priority on safety. “If the road is not good, games are cancelled,” adds Curle. “You absolutely don’t have to trudge through the snow anymore. Teams are more willing to cancel games.”

Crash victims

#9 Scott Kruger: Center, born March 31, 1967 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan … played one year for the Prince Albert Raiders … in 36 games, had 19 goals, 37 assists for 56 points and 32 penalty minutes

#11 Brent Ruff: left wing, born February 17, 1970 in Warburg, Alberta … rookie season, in 33 games, had three goals, three assists for six points and two penalty minutes … could have had best shot at pro contract

#22 Chris Mantyka: left wing, born November 9, 1967 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan … rookie season, three goals, two assists for five points and 101 penalty minutes … had a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League record 502 penalty minutes. .. just returned from a 3 game suspension

#8 Trent Kresse: left wing, born April 1, 1967 in Kindersley, Saskatchewan … was engaged, played all star caliber baseball with the Swift Current Indians … first year with Swift Current, but second in WHL, in 30 game year , scored 28 goals, 28 assists for 56 points and 27 penalty minutes

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