Apr. 9, 2018

By Josh Cooper – Gulls correspondent

Humboldt Broncos Assistant Coach Chris Beaudry made an impression on Gulls Coach Dallas Eakins when the two met as part of Eakins’ “Pass the Puck” coaching fellowship in San Diego earlier this season.

Beaudry had left his small Saskatchewan town for several days in order to learn from Eakins and embed himself in the rigors of professional coaching. The Gulls’ coach was floored by Beaudry’s passion when the two spent time together.

“It wasn’t about hockey. It was about serving others to him.”

“I certainly remember vividly (during a conversation) in my backyard going ‘that’s why I coach.’ That’s what I remembered about him immediately,” Eakins said.

Pass the Puck’s objective is to use the San Diego Gulls’ practices and games to give talented and enthusiastic youth hockey coaches opportunities to observe, participate, gain experience, share ideas and philosophies and build long-lasting relationships.

Beaudry’s team was involved in a tragic accident Friday when the Broncos bus, en-route to a playoff game, collided with a tractor-trailer. A total of 15 people have died with 14 others on the bus suffering serious injuries, but Beaudry was not one of them. He drove to the game and was 20 minutes behind the bus, according to a story by TSN. The Broncos are members of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Since then, the hockey world has come together with tributes and charitable endeavors for the Broncos and the Humboldt community. Before Saturday’s Gulls/Ontario Reign game the two teams joined together at center ice in a circle at Valley View Casino Center as everyone in the building observed a moment of silence.

“It’s just a grim reminder of how fragile we all really are,” Eakins said.

Before Friday’s Gulls game against the Reign, Eakins said one of his assistant coaches read about the crash on Twitter. Eakins then texted to Beaudry to check on him and make sure he was OK. Beaudry got back to Eakins to let him know he wasn’t involved in the accident and then the Gulls and Reign played.

Following the game, the team heard further about the tragic nature of the crash and since then the news has been hard for Eakins to shake.

“It hasn’t left me for five minutes. It’s non-stop. It’s emotional. It’s sad that for some people it takes a horrific thing like this to remind us of how lucky we are and how things that we may think are big, terrible things in our lives are nothing,” Eakins said. “I just can’t even imagine. You can’t put words into what Chris is going through, that community is going through, what those parents are going through. It’s terrible and you don’t wish it on anyone.”

Eakins and Beaudry created a unique relationship in San Diego over the first few weeks of January, exactly what Pass the Puck intended. The Gulls head coach had checked in with Beaudry a few times Saturday to continue to offer support in whatever way he could.

After Saturday’s game at center ice, Eakins gave a passionate speech to fans about what Beaudry meant to him and the importance of sports in bringing communities together.

“I thought it was amazing. A guy from a little town in Saskatchewan says ‘hey, I’m coming in there to see what you guys are up to.’ And like I said before just an amazing guy, spoke so highly of his community, was inspired to help his community and help these kids,” Eakins said.

“He’s still at it. He’s out there trying to console, help anything he can do for the surviving kids and the families that have lost their kids.”