Sister reflects on life of brother, Humboldt Broncos head coach

“He was a leader, he was a true, true leader”

photo submitted

The loss of Darcy Haugan, coach of the Humboldt Broncos, was not just the loss to his sister Deborah Carpenter of Red Deer, but a loss to the whole community.

“You think about your own loss and then you realize it’s compounded 29 times over with every family that’s out there that’s impacted,” said Carpenter in a recent interview with the Express.

Haugan was one of now 16 on a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos to their SJHL hockey playoff game April 6th that died when it collided with a semi-trailer.

Carpenter was at home with her family in Red Deer when she heard the news five and a half hours after the crash that her brother didn’t make it.

“It was seriously just like every other day. It flitted through my mind that there was another playoff game that night and Darcy’s team could face elimination and I was going, oh I hope they win,” said Carpenter about that horrible Friday night.

When she initially heard the news there’d been a bad accident, she told her children to come upstairs and pray for everyone, something her brother believed strongly in.

Carpenter said his love for God is what inspired him and developed him into the man he was.

She added that he was also very humble.

“He was just a great man. He was a leader, he was a true, true leader, and because he knew that, that came only from his relationship with God. He would never take credit for it,” she said.

Carpenter flew out to Saskatoon on Sunday to visit her parents, who live in Humboldt.

While enroute on the plane, Carpenter sat near Sheldon Kennedy, Peter Soberlak and Bob Wilkie, who were on the Swift Current Broncos bus that crashed in 1986, killing four players.

“I had the opportunity to make that plane trip with those men that listened to my stories about Darcy and shared with me their experiences. I was just very grateful for them for that time,” said Carpenter.

“You grow up in the hockey world and you kind of can tell who’s a hockey player,” she said with a laugh.

Growing up in Peace River, hockey was always a passion for Haugan.

“I graduated high school and went off into the great big world, and he was, at 14, also moving off into the great big world of hockey, playing junior hockey in Fort Saskatchewan and he played in St. Albert and Estevan.”

He later went off to university for a year and then played hockey, but Carpenter said it was a back injury that stopped him from pursuing his NHL dream.

He later went off to Briercrest College in Caronport, Saskatchewan for a degree in leadership.

“That dovetailed into becoming a hockey coach, and he just embraced that and it brought the best of both worlds together for him.”

Carpenter later moved to Red Deer when Haugan went back up to Peace River to coach the Junior B team, the Peace River Navigators.

Haugan was there for many years before getting the call to go up to the SJHL in 2015 to coach the Broncos.

Carpenter and Haugan’s father grew up in the Humboldt area and decided to retire there so they could be next to Haugan and his wife and two kids.

Even though Carpenter was a seven-hour drive away, Haugan always made the time to see her.

“We’d get to have supper or a quick coffee at the Timmys in Gasoline Alley.”

Carpenter now has those moments as memories she will keep with her.

After attending the recent vigil in Humboldt, one of the things that stuck out to Carpenter was amount of emotion heard after each name of the boys that didn’t make it was read.

“As each name was said you could hear the intake of air and these small gasps and cries that came up when they heard their child’s name or their family’s name,” she said.

The same went when her brother’s name was called.

“It just brought this involuntary response. It was a profound and heartbreaking experience just to be there.”

Carpenter said there’s a reason her brother profoundly impacted so many people.

She said he was a hero, not because of some great selfless act, but because he did countless things in small ways every single day.

“When I hear about what others are saying about him from his older years, I have to say that’s exactly the boy I knew, that’s the man I knew as my brother.”

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