One last skate – for Humboldt

The community is invited to ‘Skate for Humboldt’ on the Shamrock Centre ice this Friday evening, April 13, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.


For the very last time, a one-time high school hockey player will be lacing up his skates this Friday evening, before carefully hitting the ice.

And as he does so, the image of the recently devastated Humboldt Broncos team will be in both his mind, and heart.

“I feel great grief over the tragedy of the unexpected fatality of those boys,” said Lloyd Jersak, 80. “I have grandchildren that are that age.”

Half of the small-town Saskatchewan hockey team was horrifically lost in just moments last Friday, when their team bus was involved in a crash with a semitrailer north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan.

Fifteen people in total died on the bus that day at the highway junction, with another succumbing to her injuries on Wednesday, and more still remaining in hospital.

“Maybe it’s an opportunity for one community to show support to another community,” said Jersak. “A kind of come-and-go skate for Humboldt, and people can put in a few coins. If there was a message from Killarney to Humboldt, whether it’s in an event or a prayer or a few bucks, it will make a difference. We may think it’s small, but when you accumulate it, it’s bigger and more lasting.”

Brian LePoudre, recreation manager for the Shamrock Centre, agreed to hold onto the local hockey arena ice – scheduled to be melted out this weekend – just a little longer, in order to hold the special event.

“We will be holding Skate for Humboldt this Friday, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., at the Paterson Arena (in Shamrock Centre),” said LePoudre. “It will be a free skate, but people, if they wish, can donate with cash, or with cheques, which can be made out to the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain. Unfortunately we can’t take debit or credit cards. And we will donate the proceeds from all Slushees sold during the skate to the Humboldt Broncos.”

Jersak also sees this very emotional event as a way for him to give thanks for 5,000 precious days of life that he has been blessed with.

“In 2002, I was told I had cancer on one kidney,” he said. “I had surgery, and two years later the other one was done too. In 2013, I had cardiac surgery, after my aorta was torn while I was chain sawing in the bush. I have had 33 MRIs at least. I’ve also had two knee replacements. I have no anxiety about the end of life, but I would like to express surprise and gratitude that I am still here after more than 15 years.”

It’s been a few years, however, since Jersak last laced up his skates, and a lot more since he was part of his high school hockey team.

“I played juvenile hockey in high school for Minitonas Collegiate, in 1952,” said Jersak. “I was the rookie, aged 15, and the youngest player. I spent a lot of time on the bench that first year. We had a very good team, and I still remember everyone’s name. It creates a very strong bond.”

Now Jersak is adding up the time he has enjoyed in his later years, and aware of what little he might have remaining.

“I thought, ‘My days are numbered,’” he said. “I meditated on that, and saw that I am now at 5,000 days – that’s 365 days times 15 years – since I was diagnosed with cancer. But I’m feeling pretty good, and the tumours are not growing. I am hoping that I can still put my skates on, and that I can still skate. I would like to skate one last time. I also have an old brass baritone horn, and would like to play ‘Amazing Grace.’ It would be my final thanksgiving.”

Skaters are also invited to bring along a hockey stick, which can be placed at centre ice during the event, in tribute to the Humboldt Broncos, and taken home afterwards.

REMEMBERING THE BRONCOS – Lloyd Jersak will be playing Amazing Grace on his elegant 98-year-old brass baritone horn on Friday at the Don Paterson arena ice during the Skate for Humboldt Broncos event. The free skate is being held to pay tribute to the hockey team, and help raise money following last week’s highway tragedy in Saskatchewan. The ice will be open from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – with hockey sticks fanned inside the centre ice circle.