HUMBOLDT, Sask. — Darcy Haugan was four years younger than his sister, but Deborah Carpenter says she always looked up to him as they were growing up.
"He was my big little brother. He was my hero," she said from Humboldt, Sask., where his funeral service is to take place this afternoon at the Elgar Petersen Arena.
"He was just so gracious to me and kind to me and encouraging."
Another funeral is being held in Humboldt today at the St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church for team statistician Brody Hinz. In Lethbridge, defenceman Logan Boulet will be remembered at a service at the Nicholas Sheran Ice Centre.
Haugan was head coach of the Humboldt Broncos. The junior hockey team’s bus and a semi-truck collided at a rural crossroads April 6 as the team was heading to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game..
Haugan, 42, was among the 16 who died. Thirteen were injured.
Carpenter said she and her brother grew up in a sports-loving household in Peace River, Alta. When it wasn’t hockey, it was baseball.
She wanted to take part, but she lacked the athletic prowess of her brother and father. She would sometimes tell her brother that she wished she could play like him.
"And he would say to me: ‘Deb, you have all the talent. You just haven’t had the opportunity to develop it.’
"How kind is that?"
By the time Haugan started playing junior hockey for the Fort Saskatchewan Traders, Carpenter was away at school, but she would travel to watch his games.
Once he started coaching, Haugan always made time to see his sister, even if it was just squeezing in a coffee at a Tim Hortons in Red Deer, Alta., where she lives.
The lessons he imparted to the young players on his team went beyond the ice, said Carpenter.
"At the end of the day, he obviously wanted them to succeed at hockey, but he also knew what it was going to take to succeed in life."
Haugan was a devout Christian who would pray before work in his office and before bed with his sons Carson, 12, and Jackson, 9.
Carpenter said Haugan would tell his boys: "I don’t care if you play hockey. I don’t care what job you do. I don’t care about those things. I just care that you follow Jesus."
"He never left things unsaid to his children, things that he felt were important that they know. And he would repeat them so that they knew it was important."
When Haugan went out of town for a few days for a tournament, he would tell his eldest: "All right, you’re the man of the house. Take care of your mom until I’m back."
"So Carson is looking at this and saying, ‘My dad is gone and I want to take care of my mom,"’ Carpenter said.
She said Haugan’s wife, Christina, is suffering, but she’s handling the tragedy with courage and grace. She is the office manager for the Broncos.
Carpenter said her brother lived as though every moment were his last, even though he couldn’t have known how little time he had.
"We think that things like this can’t happen, (that) we’re safe. And we live as though we have forever and we live recklessly and without thought.
"But Darcy lived intentionally and gave a thought to everything and everyone."