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This article was published 8/4/2018 (727 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Humboldt Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan clearly left an impact on his players — including one who suited up Sunday at Bell MTS Place with a heavy heart.
Manitoba Moose forward Darren Kramer politely declined to speak following his team’s final regular-season home game, still reeling from the tragic death of Haugan and 14 others following Friday night’s bus crash in Saskatchewan. But the veteran forward penned a tribute to his former neighbour, junior coach and longtime mentor in a post on his public Instagram page this weekend.
"A soothing, gentle, kind man to be around. His presence would fill the room, and his love for the game was undenied. My heart aches coming to terms your name will not come up on my phone again. There will be many days, especially in the year to come where you would have been my first call for advice, devastating you are no longer able to share your wisdom, but the lives you’ve touched and knowledge you left behind is unparalleled," Kramer wrote.
Kramer, 26, was born in Peace River, Alta., and lived near the Haugan family. Haugan’s father, Leroy, would regularly join the neighbourhood kids for pick-up street hockey games.
"Much of my childhood was spent beating up the pavement on 83rd St. with our hockey sticks. The common street-hockey chant ‘caarrrrrr!’ would be yelled when one came around the bend, unless it was a long box Kal-Tire truck, then it was ‘Leroyyy!’ Even more cheering took place when we saw him over-shoot his own driveway and head for our game. The sticks and nets would be yard sale’d and 4-5 of us would pile into the box of Leroy’s pickup (how times have changed)," Kramer wrote.
"Nothing had to be said, we knew we were heading for the nearest Reddi Mart for ice cream while Leroy’s supper would be getting cold. At that time, we had no clue Leroy’s son Darcy was off pursuing the game that we were playing for fun, and very little did I know how influential Darcy would become in my life on and off the ice."
Haugan was a high-level player who spent a year at Northern Michigan before returning to his home community, continuing his education and taking up coaching.
"He coached our decorated Jr. B team to one championship after another and treated the league as if it was the NHL, not because he didn’t realize it was Jr. B, it was because he didn’t know any other way to coach and respect the game, it was with pure class and determination," said Kramer, who went on to play two years in the Western Hockey League with Spokane, and was selected in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL draft by Ottawa.
"My final season in town, he booked the ice at 6 a.m. every Wednesday for the players who wanted extra work. He had a key to the arena and beat everyone there. I never missed one morning, because I knew he understood the game and, more importantly, I knew he believed I was capable of getting out of Peace River. I don’t think he blinked an eye when Ottawa called my name in the NHL draft, and I am even more certain he didn’t take any credit for it, even though it was due."
Kramer has spent the past three seasons with the Manitoba Moose, with 13 goals, six assists and 274 penalty minutes in 128 games.
He was just recently named the team’s representative for American Hockey League "Man of the Year" for his many volunteer efforts in the community.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at 11:40 PM CDT: Edited