April 25, 2018

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Mark Chipman, Jonathan Toews deliver game-worn jerseys to Humboldt

Courtesy Chicago Blackhawks</p><p>(L-R) Humboldt Broncos VP Randolph MacLean, Winnipeg Jets Executive Chairman Mark Chipman, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Humboldt Broncos President Kevin Garinger with two of the game jerseys delivered to Humboldt by Toews and Chipman Friday, April 13, 2018.</p>

Courtesy Chicago Blackhawks

(L-R) Humboldt Broncos VP Randolph MacLean, Winnipeg Jets Executive Chairman Mark Chipman, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Humboldt Broncos President Kevin Garinger with two of the game jerseys delivered to Humboldt by Toews and Chipman Friday, April 13, 2018.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to Humboldt for Mark Chipman.

Pay your respects. In and out. Low key.

The Winnipeg Jets co-owner had travelled to the home of the Broncos on Friday morning, along with Winnipeg-born Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, to deliver the jerseys worn by the Winnipeg Jets and Hawks last Saturday — all with the Broncos name bar on the backs.

The jerseys were originally to be auctioned off for charity. But when word filtered to the Jets organization that players and family members of the Broncos expressed interest in them, Chipman decided the best thing to do was deliver them to Humboldt and personally pay his respects.

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It was supposed to be a quick trip to Humboldt for Mark Chipman.

Pay your respects. In and out. Low key.

The Winnipeg Jets co-owner had travelled to the home of the Broncos on Friday morning, along with Winnipeg-born Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, to deliver the jerseys worn by the Winnipeg Jets and Hawks last Saturday — all with the Broncos name bar on the backs.

The jerseys were originally to be auctioned off for charity. But when word filtered to the Jets organization that players and family members of the Broncos expressed interest in them, Chipman decided the best thing to do was deliver them to Humboldt and personally pay his respects.

Toews flew up from Chicago to join Chipman on the trip.

They ended up attending the funeral of Jacob Leicht, a 19-year-old forward for the Broncos, one of 16 passengers who lost their lives in the accident that shook the country in the late afternoon of April 6.

Chipman said he was profoundly moved by Leicht's parents, Kurt and Celeste, in the face of such loss.

"They were so unselfish," he said. "It was all about the community. It was never about them. I've never seen anything like the strength this family showed today. It was just extraordinary.

"I don't know how this woman did it, but she stood up and spoke at her son's memorial service in the most incredible way.

"I think we've all been operating with a different perspective all week," he added. "I think today just put an exclaimation point on it. Just how fortunate we are. Just how fragile life is... a tragedy like that. It just puts everything through a different lens.

"But you go out there today and you look at the family, who would seem the most grief stricken. You could understand if they couldn't put one foot ahead of the other. And you see the courage and their faith, which they articulated beautifully. You see that and it just expands your heart."

Chipman's 23-year-old daughter, Annie, a goaltender who spent the last four years with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, joined her dad for the trip.

"It hits me as a parent," he said. "It hits her as a peer, as a young person who can relate to all those long bus rides. It hits us all in similar but different ways.

"I think we're feeling about this the way everybody else is. We're no different. You come at it from a perspective of a parent, or a hockey perspective. The whole basis of how important a bus is to a team. There's something about it that's very sacred.

"It's the Prairies, it's junior hockey, it's young men chasing their dream. It's so many things wound together. So it felt like the right thing to do was go up there and pay our respects, and let them know that our two organizations.... we're behind them on this. And not just today or next week but this is a community and a team that's going to need our support for a long time.

"I think it's going to take a while for it to settle in," Chipman concluded. "I've been trying to wrap my head around it. Man, I saw goodness, I saw humanity in a really remarkable way today."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @randyturner15

Read more by Randy Turner.

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