24: Four players killed in bus crash
Swift Current Broncos
12/2/2004 4:02:51 PM
In 1986, junior hockey returned to the city of Swift Current, Saskatchewan - 12 years after the original Broncos moved to Lethbridge. What should have been a wonderful time for both fans and players was marred by tragedy late in the year.
On December 30, 1986, the Broncos boarded a bus for a game against rival Regina, a scene repeated many times by teams playing junior hockey across North America. No one paid much attention to the weather which was typical for this time of the year.
Among the players on that bus that fateful day was Joe Sakic. He sat at the front with teammate Sheldon Kennedy. The pair watched as the driver lost control of the bus in the snowy conditions. The bus slid towards a railway overpass, skidded off the road and landed on its side.
"After everything seemed secure, we started to file one by one through the (broken front) windshield - not knowing what had happened at the other end of the bus," Sakic recalled.
At the back of the bus, Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka were playing cards when the crash occurred. Two of the four - Ruff and Mantyka - were thrown from the bus and pinned underneath it.
Before the rest of the players found out about the condition of their teammates, many were rushed to the hospital. It was there they learned all four had died.
The Broncos, led by Sakic, soldiered on following the accident. They were given standing ovations in each rink they played in and the team overcame the tragedy and qualified for the playoffs.
The numbers of the four players killed were retired by the Broncos and a patch honouring the memory of the players was designed which every Swift Current player wears on their jersey.
Since 1994, the WHL Player of the Year is awarded the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy.