Nobody would blame Brayden Camrud if he asked for a helping hand this year as the night of the Broncos bus crash, and the pain of losing teammates, coaches and staff remain fresh.
But instead of asking for assistance from his team during his courageous return to the Broncos this season, Camrud, who survived the crash, is making sure everybody else in the room is doing alright first — a true sign of his leadership.
“I kinda owe it to these guys this year to step up and be a leader and make sure they all feel comfortable being in the room, too,” he said in the hallways of the Elgar Petersen Arena on Tuesday, one day before his Broncos will play their home opener against the Nipawin Hawks.
“I’m trying to turn a new page a little bit and make sure I’m good to go for them this season,” he said.
It’s that type of character that allowed Camrud to be named to the Broncos’ leadership group on Monday. Derek Patter, who like Camrud also survived the crash, will return wearing a letter.
Nathan Oystrick, the Broncos head coach and general manager, said he’s “never seen a team gel quicker” and owes a lot of that to Camrud and Patter.
Not only that, but Oystrick said Camrud and Patter helped him personally quite a bit. Before the team makes a big decision, Oystrick said he’s sure to run it by both returnees first.
“They’ve been absolutely amazing,” Oystrick said. “They’re the two hardest working players on the ice every single day. They come to the rink prepared and ready to go. They continue to talk to everyone and make sure everyone is comfortable and make sure everyone knows where they need to be, at what time. Patter’s here at practice two hours before every practice. Those two have been outstanding.”
On Monday, the Broncos named just three assistant captains to their leadership group for the upcoming season. Michael Clarke, who joined the team from the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks this year and is a former Prince Albert Raiders draft pick, was also named as an assistant.
The Broncos chose to not name a captain, out of respect to last year’s skipper Logan Schatz who was one of the 16 that lost their lives on April 6. Oystrick said the team could name another assistant captain later.
The team will be looking to lean on that leadership group for their Wednesday home opener against the Nipawin Hawks, at 6:30 p.m. at the Elgar Petersen Arena.
For many reasons, this will be so much more than a run-of-the-mill game.
It will be the first competitive game for the Broncos since April 6 (barring exhibition action). It's also against the very team the Broncos were en route to play the day of the crash. The game will also be broadcast nationwide on TSN, likely in front of millions of people.
“I don’t know, to be quite honest,” Oystrick said on how the team will respond emotionally. “We’re trying to prepare them the best we can, letting them know that it’s a game. It’s a game they’ve all played and they know well. My best guest would be after the puck drops, their focus is on hockey and winning a hockey game.”
The players have heard that message loud and clear, but for Camrud, it’s a lot to deal with.
“I’m feeling pretty good, I'm a little nervous,” Camrud said. “I got tons of people coming to watch me, teammates from last year coming. It’s going to be a packed barn. It’s on TV — there’s so many things that are happening tomorrow."
“It’s a little overwhelming, but the way I’m dealing with it, I’m just trying to stay focused on the game. We still have a job to do tomorrow. We got a team this year, and we gotta win.”
900 CKBI radio will present a special program at 2 p.m. Wednesday looking ahead to the Broncos' season opener.
On Twitter: @jeff_paNOW
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