Strangers have been unfailingly kind to Deborah Carpenter since she lost her only brother, team coach Darcy Haugan, in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last week.
The Red Deer resident was touched by the sight of hockey sticks lined up on porches as a tribute to the traumatized team, which lost 16 members. The green and yellow lapel pins and hockey jerseys worn in solidarity gave Carpenter “a sense of not being alone in this.”
The pastor’s assistant at CrossRoads Church, said she is very grateful for the support, and “overwhelmed” by all the donations made to the bereaved families.
When the Carpenter/Haugan clan gathered at a Humboldt pizza restaurant two nights before her brother’s funeral, which is set for Saturday afternoon at the Humboldt arena, the restaurant manager wouldn’t let the family pay for their meals.
Similarly, the hotel family members checked into for three nights in Saskatchewan wouldn’t take Carpenter’s credit card after staff discovered they were in town for a funeral.
Carpenter believes such acts of kindness are all the more poignant because “that’s my brother. That’s how he treated everybody…
“He never had an unkind word to say. And when he had an unkind thought, he kept it to himself,” recalled Carpenter, who considers Haugan “my hero.”
They grew up in Peace River, as a pair of kids in a sports-oriented family that included their hockey-playing dad.
Carpenter, who was four when Darcy was born, discovered “I wasn’t the centre of the universe anymore” — and that was the only time there was ever bad blood between her and her brother, she said, with a chuckle.
She remembers Haugan was hockey-obsessed from the age of two. Whenever he’d hear the Hockey Night in Canada theme on TV, Darcy would run around, grab his kid’s hockey stick, and then stand in front of the screen, with his hand over his heart, as the players sang O Canada, Carpenter recalled.
“He’d just be standing there in his underwear, or maybe it was even a diaper…”
Haugan grew up to be a gifted athlete, eventually playing on various hockey teams throughout the Prairies — and professionally for a year in Sweden before his career was derailed by injuries.
He found his true calling as a hockey coach, said Carpenter, who believes the people her brother mentored were always more important to him than the game. “He’s was tough but fair. He expected a lot from the players… but he always said, ‘There’s more to life than hockey.’”
Several of Haugan’s former players publicly credited him with making a positive difference in their lives. But Darcy never thought of himself as special or influential, said Carpenter. “He was always humble.”
Haugan, who died at age 42, also leaves behind his wife and two sons and his parents.
Carpenter said family members are “heartbroken,” but are finding comfort in their Christian faith.
If anything good can come from the terrible event, she hopes it’s that we all continue being kind to others — those closest to us, as well as perfect strangers.
“I hope that it’s enough of a moment for people to stop and reach out.”