‘He was a gift:’ Broncos stats keeper remembered for math, memory, kindness

HUMBOLDT, Sask. — Brody Hinz went to church every Sunday.

The 18-year-old competed in bowling and floor hockey with the Special Olympics.

And, with a knack for math and an exceptional memory, he compiled statistics for his beloved Humboldt Broncos.

Hinz was one of 16 people who have died as a result of the junior hockey team’s bus colliding with a semi truck last week on the way to a playoff game in northeastern Saskatchewan.

“He gave us so much,” Rev. Brenda Curtis with the Humboldt Westminster United Church told The Canadian Press.

“He was a remarkable young man.”

Hinz was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. And he was brilliant, Curtis said.

She remembers that as a six-year-old Hintz was able to read and once, after watching a weather report on the TV news, replicated on a chalk board a map of Canada with cities and temperatures. Her jaw hit the floor.

Later, on drives to summer Bible camp, she’d quiz him on his encyclopedic memory of sports.

“I’d say, ‘So Brody, tell me who won the Super Bowl in 1952.’ He’d tell me. I’d say, ‘And who was quarterbacking?’ And he’d tell me. I’d say, ‘Who was the MVP?’ And he’d tell me … You literally couldn’t stump him.”

His father died when he was young and the church, friends and other organizations in the community such as Big Brothers helped support him and his family, Curtis said.

And in return, Hinz taught them about being kind and making a difference, Curtis said.

Hinz was full of life and, as a boy in church, instead of singing to hymns — he danced. He loosened everyone up in the congregation, she said.

Later as a teen, he helped teach Sunday school and the kids adored him, Curtis said. So did the men at church, who huddled with him in the lobby near the coffee pot each Sunday morning to talk sports.

Not only could he remember everything and do math calculations in his head, he was able to make accurate predictions, said his Humboldt high school principal, Cory Popoff.

“Before training camp started for the NHL … he said the Las Vegas (Golden) Knights will not only be in the playoffs in their first year, they will be contenders for the Stanley Cup. And now look what happened.”

Hinz played two seasons with the high school football team, said Popoff, and was chosen because he gave 100 per cent each minute he was on the field. After hurting his knee this past year, he helped out as equipment manager.

Hinz was treated like every other kid in school, Popoff added, and everyone there is going to miss him.

“He was a gift,” said Popoff.

Hinz was to graduate in June and was super proud of the accomplishment, said family friend Kathy Klatt.

He was even more excited when he got the chance this season to join the Broncos as their stats keeper, she said.

“He was on cloud nine to be able to do that.”

It was a volunteer position with the local radio station that saw Hinz travel with the team he had been watching since he was young.

He worked alongside the station’s play-by-play announcer, Tyler Bieber, who was also on the bus and died in the crash.

Faye Matt, head of Special Olympics Saskatchewan, said Hinz stood out among the many athletes she has met over the years.

He competed with the organization through his teen years, she said, and he gave grace at the organization’s award banquet in 2015.

He was candid, warm and funny.

“Losing athletes like Brody is definitely difficult and it makes the work we do at Special Olympics that much more poignant,” said Matt.

“We’re so proud to know he was working with the Broncos.”

A funeral is to held for Hinz in Humboldt on Saturday.

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