The Humboldt Broncos organization formally announced that former Colorado Academy head hockey coach Nathan Oystrick will be their new head coach and general manager in a Tuesday press conference.
The announcement comes nearly three months after the Broncos bus accident that killed 16 people and injured 13, including head coach Darcy Haugan.
For Oystrick, a Saskatchewan native, the healing process is far from over.
“There’s going to be a lot of things away from the rink that are going to be tough. Our first road trip is gonna be hard on the community. It’s gonna be hard on our team."
He stresses that building a "culture of family" will help the team bond together, despite going through such a painful rebuild.
"Making sure that everyone in that dressing room cares about each other. Making sure we’re respectful of each other and out in the community and meeting people. The little things that we can do, whatever we can to help, we’ll be doing.”
Oystrick is no stranger to bringing a program back to life. Last year he was hired to help Colorado Academy reform the school’s hockey program. The Mustangs had not played as a high school team in more than a decade. They played as a JV team last season but the Mustangs will officially move to a varsity schedule in 2018-19.
“I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into," Oystrick said with a chuckle. "We had probably five hockey players, another five who could skate, then 15 who were lacrosse players, or basketball players or soccer players. So we really had to break it down and start from scratch, which I think made me stronger as a person and a coach.”
By the end of this month, Oystrick and his family will make the move back home to Canada. He expects around 80 players to be there when camp starts August 24. Once the 30-man roster is made, the Broncos will play two exhibition games in Peace River, Alberta, the hometown of Haugan.
There is still a very long road to recovery for the Humboldt community, but step by step, they will heal.
“No one is ever going to forget that day and we don’t ever want to forget. But trying to bring normal back to a community is going to be us playing hockey. I truly believe that’s the only way we can properly honor those people.”
Before Oystrick was hired to coach at CA, he began his coaching career as an assistant with the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators in 2016.
Oystrick played professional hockey for 10 seasons, including with the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets), Anaheim Ducks, and St. Louis Blues. He played four seasons with the University of Northern Michigan.
Colorado Academey’s athletic director Bill Hall said that they were honored to have Oystrick help their program return to the ice. The school will immediately begin to find a replacement but said that they will “have big shoes to fill”.