Breaking News
More () »

Humboldt survivor takes first step into coaching with Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation

Graysen Cameron got his very first coaching victory in the Dawg Nation Hockey tournament.



Since 2011, Dawg Nation has been there in good times and in bad.

“I’ve been involved for probably six years now, since I played for the Denver Cutthroats, and every year it seems to get bigger and bigger,” said former Avs and Denver Pioneer defenseman Aaron Mackenszie. “Every year it’s helping someone out who has had a tragic event happen in their life and for us to be able to give back, it’s a pretty special thing.”

Seven years after its’ birth, the Foundation has raised more than a million dollars for families in need. There are those who have battled cancer while others have survived heart attacks and head injuries. Every story is unique and different but each one shares a love for community and (of course) hockey.

On Saturday, there was not one empty seat left at Edge Ice Arena in Littleton. The lights were dimmed and the audience silenced. A tall, blonde-haired young man wearing dark-framed glasses walked onto the rink, carefully sliding his way to center-ice.

The young man is Graysen Cameron. A hockey player. A son. A friend.

And a survivor.


"The worst nightmare has happened."

On April 6th, 2018, the hockey community suffered a devastating blow when 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos Junior Hockey team were killed in a late-afternoon bus crash. The youth program, based out of Saskatchewan, Canada, were making their way to Nipawin for a playoff game when their bus collided with a semi-trailer around 5 p.m. that Friday.

“The worst nightmare has happened,” said Saskatchewan Junior League President Bill Chow, taking a long pause to collect his emotions. “As a league, we will support the Humboldt Broncos every way possible. Our condolences to everybody involved. Our condolences to the families. Our condolences to the injured."

There was 29 people on Humboldt’s team bus with players ranging in age from 16 to 21. The accident claimed the lives of ten players, their head coach and assistant coach, their team statistician, play-by-play radio broadcaster, and athletic therapist, as well as the driver of their bus.

Graysen Cameron, a forward for the Broncos, broke his back in the crash. He was one of the 13 who survived.

“It’s definitely been hard but we got each other and we kinda rally with each other,” Cameron said on Saturday. “We’re all in it together so we’re all just healing.”


Cameron spent a month in the hospital and was released five days after having back surgery. He could walk, but his dreams of becoming a professional hockey player were over.

Losing friends and the game he loved was heartbreaking but he found a new purpose in coaching.

“[I] Want to coach the highest level I can. That’s kind of my goal and where ever that takes me.”

Cameron got his first taste of coaching with Dawg Nation, leading the tournaments’ top-team made of former NHL’ers like Aaron MacKenszie and Gabe Gauthier. His first game ended in victory but not many care to remember the score.

Graysen Cameron, a survivor of the Humboldt bus crash, drops the ceremonial puck for the Dawg Nation Survivors game on Saturday. 

“When you see his face, when you see his eyes light up when he’s in the room, when he’s around the guys…it’s that special feeling that us as hockey players we just have and it’s hard to explain what it is,” said Gauthier, who helped the Pioneers win back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005. And he has no question that Cameron will one day become a head hockey coach.

“He’s gonna grow into his own,” Gauthier added. “He already knows the game really well and he’s got a great personality and a great head on his shoulders.”

MacKenszie shared how Cameron coaches them to victory with a current NHL star as his assistant.

"He was great you know. We had some laughs on the bench," MacKenszie continued. "I think he taught Paul (Stastny) a few things and hopefully Paul showed him a couple tricks here and there."

Win or lose, just being around the ice is helping Cameron in his recovery.

“Hockey is life for the most part where I’m from. You focus on school as much as you can but you’re looking forward to getting on the ice after school and it’s probably the biggest part of life for me growing up,” Cameron said. “The hockey community is tight so when something like this happens, everyone rallies behind us and just shows how great the hockey community is.”

As Cameron sat inside a locker room with members of the annual Survivor Game surrounding him, it became clear that the 19-year-old was not alone in his struggle.

There were hugs and stories exchanged. Phone numbers swapped and pictures taken. Cameron was overwhelmed with the camera and media attention, but found solace in the Survivors’ presence.

With permission from Humboldt, each Survivor wore a specially-made Broncos jersey. One by one, 16 individuals skated out to center-ice, a spotlight shining brightly on the cards they held.


On each card, the name of every person who died in the crash.

As the lights came back on, the announcer welcomed Cameron to the Edge, the entire arena erupting in cheers. A quiet-until-you-get-to-know-him kind of teenager, Cameron waved feebly to the crowd. Martin Richardson, the founder and director of Dawg Nation, met him at center-ice with an event-breaking $40,500 check for Ryan Straschnitzki, one of Cameron’s best friends and teammates. The funds will go a long way for Straschnitzki, who is now paralyzed from the chest down, and is still recovering from the accident.

Graysen Cameron was presented with $40,500 check for his teammate Ryan Straschnitzki, who is now paralyzed from the chest down in the April 6 bus crash. 

After dropping the puck, Cameron stood behind the benches, watching survivors like him play the game he has loved since he was four years old.

As a goal is scored, a small smile creeps to his face before quickly disappearing. It will take time for Cameron to heal, both physically and emotionally, but there is hope in his eyes.

And that will never fade.

Before You Leave, Check This Out