REGINA — As a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" rang through the speakers at Mosaic Stadium, a Humboldt Broncos flag held by a boy flew in the wind on stage.
Musician Jack Semple strummed along on his guitar in the pouring rain as the Broncos were honoured at the opening ceremony of the Memorial Cup on Thursday night.
The ceremony came only hours after it was announced that millions of dollars raised in a GoFundMe campaign will go directly to survivors and families of those killed when the junior hockey team’s bus and a semi collided at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.
Images of the Broncos were shown on the video board behind Semple during his performance.
"To be able to come here and be celebrated in that way is just absolutely, as I said, it’s humbling for all of us but it’s certainly is also part of our healing process," Humboldt president Kevin Garinger said after the tribute.
Sixteen people — including 10 players — were killed and another 13 players were injured in the tragic accident on April 6.
Families of some of the Broncos were at the opening ceremony and several Broncos jerseys along with a York Lions jersey with Cross on the back were seen during the music performance.
President of Brandt Industries Shaun Semple presented Garinger with a $100,000 cheque after the musical act.
The Memorial Cup, Canada’s major junior hockey championship, starts on Friday night with the host Regina Pats facing the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
Earlier Thursday, Garinger announced that money raised in the GoFundMe campaign will go directly to the 29 families affected by the tragedy. But a fee of nearly $500,000 is being deducted by the online fundraising site from just over $15 million in donations.
Garinger says Saskatchewan has legislation to deal with the administration of any funds raised through a public appeal.
"The GoFundMe campaign raised $15.175 million, approximately," Garinger told a news conference. "After the deduction of fees charged by GoFundMe, the net amount the memorial fund anticipates receiving from the donated monies is … right around $14.7 million."
GoFundMe said it charges a platform fee, which is 2.9 per cent plus 30 cents per donation, for payment processing fees that cover charges from third-party card processors and the secure transfer of funds.
Once the money is transferred to the team, Garinger said it will be held in trust until the legal process is complete.
"One hundred per cent of that total, as well as any interest … will go toward the 29 families that have been impacted by this unthinkable tragedy."
Scott Thomas, who lost his son Evan in the crash, said he and the other families are confident the Broncos will handle the money appropriately.
"Right from the beginning, the Humboldt Broncos have been there for us," he said. "We are all very secure and comfortable with the process that this is going through."
The Straschnitzki family, whose son Ryan was paralyzed in the crash, has previously said the money should be split evenly among the 29 families.
Thomas said he and many other families haven’t spent any time thinking about how the money gets divvied up.
"Maybe it is that simple that they cut 29 even cheques and we all go our separate ways, but it can’t be that simple," he said. "It just can’t be, because there’s two boys laying in a hospital bed right now with brain injuries that maybe need a little bit more money. There’s two paralyzed boys that maybe need a little more money.
"(Coach) Darcy Haugan’s boys maybe need a little more money. The boys that walked through that carnage will probably have PTSD for the rest of their lives. Maybe they need a little more money."
Thomas said others have raised concerns that some of the families could need financial help immediately, but he said they have been well-supported by Hockey Canada, a recent fundraising concert and others.
"If there are people out there that are concerned that this has taken a long time, this is only six weeks," said Thomas, who added he only picked up his son’s ashes on Wednesday and put them into 10 little urns for his family and friends. "This is the stuff our families are dealing with right now.
"We’re patient, we’re secure and we’re confident and we support the Broncos and everything that they’re doing."
The Broncos said the legal process has started and a Court of Queen’s Bench justice is to be appointed. It will be overseen by a volunteer board of directors, with assistance from lawyers who are also providing their services free of charge.
The process is expected to take up to three months, said Garinger.