Saskatoon Blades play-by-play voice Les Lazurak has started an initiative to honour fallen Humboldt Broncos play-by-play man Tyler Bieber that has caught the attention of broadcasters across the country.
On Thursday, the day Bieber was laid to rest in Humboldt, Lazurak tweeted out that he would call a Broncos game in 2018-19 for free and asked other broadcasters to do the same.
The message spread like wildfire.
Within hours, TSN lead broadcasters Chris Cuthbert and Gord Miller both offered their services, as did Sportsnet's Rob Faulds, Montreal Canadians voice John Bartlett, Ottawa Senators play-by-play radio man Dean Brown, Vancouver Canucks radio voice Brendan Batchelor, and Winnipeg Jets radio play-by-play man Brian Munz, who began his career broadcasting Humboldt games.
Even Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reached out through Twitter direct message and Fox Sports colour commentator Darren Pang offered to help as well.
"The numbers of high profile [broadcasters] is staggering," Lazurak said in a phone interview on Friday afternoon to BattlefordsNOW. "I'm overwhelmed. It goes way beyond my expectations. And it proves to me, again, just how tightly knit, not just the hockey community and the play-by-play broadcaster community is, but the sports community is. Because it's not just hockey play-by-play people who are responding. I've had football, baseball."
Lazurak said he's had Morley Scott, the voice of the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, and Jamie Campbell, the Toronto Blue Jays host, reach out.
"At some point in time, all those people have ridden the bus, have travelled with the team, have been close to the coaches and to the bus driver and to the players, and can feel a pang of pain in their heart, in their souls, the fact that this happened," Lazaruk said.
Miller, who did a phone interview from Tampa Bay where he had just landed ahead of calling a Stanley Cup playoff game, said he has seen the support go beyond just the broadcasting community.
"As soon as I saw it, I thought, 'We should all pitch in and do that,'" Miller said. "I was in Washington last night, in Winnipeg on Wednesday and both donated their 50/50 proceeds to Humboldt. You see coaches wearing green ties and broadcasters. I think the hockey community and really the community as a whole is rallying around Humboldt, which needs it."
Cuthbert, who started his play-by-play career in the SJHL with the Yorkton Terriers in 1979-80, said in an email that everyone seems to feel connected in some way to the Humboldt tragedy, and for someone who made those same bus trips himself, it was the least he could do.
"Any small way we can honour Tyler, the Broncos and Humboldt would be a privilege," Cuthbert said. "I made those trips including a few to the old barn in Humboldt. The bus was a special place where bonds are forged and you have plenty of time to dream about the future; for a player playing in the NHL, or at a higher level, for me calling games in the NHL."
Bartlett echoed Cuthbert's sentiments about that connection.
"I saw that idea and I thought, 'Wow, that's great! I'm in.' It was the first thought right away," Barlett said, who rode the bus himself in junior both as a goaltender and as a broadcaster. "This shows how big of a country we are and yet how tight we are as Canadians. When you see sticks out on the front porch of everyone from B.C. to Newfoundland, I think this just resonates with everyone across the country.
"Sometimes when you go through the most difficult times, you really see the true light shine through and that's what has kind of happened here."
Lazurak said the next step is to follow up with all those interested and make sure they follow through.
He said he's started reaching out by phone and email to thsoe who expressed interest on Twitter.
"I definitely want to get this going and at least strike while the iron is hot," Lazurak said. "I want there to be a follow through on this and that's why I'm hoping that those people get back to me as soon as they're able to."
Sarah Miller, the program director at Bolt FM, where Bieber worked, also gave her blessing. On Twitter, she said, "I sincerely appreciate the idea and it's an amazing way to honour Tyler."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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