DENVER — Former Humboldt Broncos teammates Jacob Wassermann and Ryan Straschnitzki received a standing ovation from hockey fans at the University of Denver Friday and will likely get the same treatment at a Colorado Avalanche game Saturday evening.
Both players were paralyzed April 6 when a bus carrying the Broncos was hit by a semi-trailer, killing 16 and injuring 13.
The duo reunited in a exhibition sledge hockey game — their first time together on the ice since the crash.
They will drop the puck Saturday at a game between the Avalanche and the Dallas Stars.
Colorado head coach Jared Bednar has been a lifelong friend of Kirby Wassermann, Jacob’s father.
“We grew up together and played hockey together and have stayed in touch over the years. He was a great help in getting Jacob invited down here with Dawg Nation and the guys dropping the pucks,” said Wassermann.
“He was a Humboldt Bronco himself when, I believe, he was 17 so he has that connection to Humboldt and the Broncos, plus being a friend of mine with our families.”
The Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation helps adult hockey players and their families in times of crisis caused by catastrophic injury or illness, and it brought the two players to Denver.
Wassermann said it’s appropriate it will be the “Broncos meeting the Broncos” Sunday at the NFL game between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tom Straschnitzki said the two families keep in touch because of the boys’ friendship and the similarity of their injuries. Ryan is paralyzed from the chest down for Jacob it’s below the navel.
He said after the months of physiotherapy it’s a real morale boost for both of them.
“Those two have been non-stop smiling since we got on the plane. It’s been fantastic.”
Ryan Straschnitzki was excited about getting on the ice again but is relieved he is moving from participant to spectator for the rest of the weekend.
“I’m more interested in watching the hockey rather than playing it,” he said with a laugh.
Both players will get a little more hockey under their belts before returning home to Canada. They will be on the ice with the Dallas Stars at a Monday practice.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press