If Gail Chilman could use one word to describe Darcy Haugan, it would be “amazing.”
As billet co-ordinator for the Estevan Bruins, she’s welcomed her home to many young budding hockey players of the years.
Few left a lasting memory on Chilman like Haugan did.
“(He’s) just an amazing man. A young man when he came, grew into his years of being a family man, just amazing,” said Chilman.
Haugan was one of 15 people who were killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
Chilman was the billet for Haugan in 1995-96 when he played for the Bruins.
“Darcy was the kindest, gentlest man,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, when he was coaching hockey he could throw a little temper tantrum, but he was just the best.”
“If you talked to any players that he’s coached, or been with, they’ll agree he’s the best person ever.”
She said she’s kept in touch with Haugan after he left the team.
“He’s gone off to university, he’s gone to Europe to play hockey, he’s been married, we were at his wedding, he has two young sons,” Chilman said.
“When he became the coach in Humboldt we were super excited because he would be even closer to us now versus up in Peace River, Alta.”
The Chilman’s were in disbelief when they found out that Haugan was one of those killed in the crash.
“When I heard about the accident, all you do is pray that everybody’s ok and there is no fatalities, which of course we know there was, but it’s just unbelievable. I’m still not wrapping my head around it. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ll never see him again,” she said.
Chilman has been in contact with Haugan’s wife offering her support.
Many of the young men on the bus we part of the billeting world. Chilman said these young players become a part of their billet’s family.
“They become your son or they become your grandson in my case. They are just a part of your family. I would say 90 per cent of the kids we’ve have come through here keep in contact one way or the other,” she explained.
“You see them grow up, you see them raise their own families, it’s an amazing experience.”
A lot of the billet families have young children who become brothers and sisters to these players.
Mark Cross, the assistant coach to the Broncos, also died in the crash. Chilman said he also played for the Bruins.
“His billet parents and us got together and reminisced and talked about different things that happened and boys they played with. (Cross) was another young man, gentle, quite, just getting into his coaching career unfortunately,” she said.
The support from the community has been amazing according to Chilman. She said it’s nice to have people come together and share their stories.