WESTLOCK - It was a tragedy that threw an entire nation into mourning, as 16 lives were cut short in the blink of an eye when the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus was struck by a semi truck that had missed a stop sign on a northern Saskatchewan highway in early April 2018.
Tyler Smith was one of the 13 survivors to walk away and he now lives with the memories of that day. He’s coping though, and he wants to share his story of trauma and life on the road to recovery with others and that it’s OK to reach out for help
As such, the former Bronco will be the second keynote speaker at the upcoming “Playing with Fire” event, being put on by the Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation and the Westlock Warriors at the Westlock and District Community Hall Feb. 21. Tickets for the event are $40 and available from the Flower Shoppe on Main Street in Westlock, or via Eventbrite.ca.
Former NHL star Theo Fleury will also be in attendance to share his own stories of trauma and recovery.
“For the most part, if I can spread my message, whether it be through an interview or a public speaking engagement, I just more or less want to spread that message more and more,” said the 21-year-old Smith Leduc native, during a break from the classroom last week.
He is currently in his second semester in the Television and Broadcasting program at NAIT and wouldn’t mind becoming a sportscaster, but his true goal is a public speaking career, hence the invitation to address what is sure to be a capacity crowd of hundreds at the upcoming event in Westlock.
“The message is hopefully getting out there more and more. In sports, you can really see it coming along in strides. As long as I can be a part of that and be an advocate for mental health, especially in men, I’m going to take every opportunity I can get,” he said.
Smith has been getting some practice on the public speaking circuit too, having delivered a recent speech to military members from CFB Edmonton. He also spoke to the young hockey players and fans at a Whitecourt hockey tournament and students at an Edmonton high school about his Movember campaign last November, so he’s no rookie.
He’s been overwhelmed by the support he’s received.
“Through this, you can see people’s true colours and we’ve definitely seen some beautiful people through this and the way everybody rallied to help us out and are still helping us out. It will forever be the worst day of my life, but those people can kind of help us move forward and still go about our daily lives,” he said.
“I want to spread that message for everyone that we lost. I played hockey for them and I do everything for them, so it’s just a matter of making it an everyday priority and bringing everything to fruition.”
Smith said he is thrilled to be coming to Westlock to share his story and is also looking forward to hear what Fleury has to say.
“I went through it and I’m still going through it and I know how much you can struggle and I know how much, if you bottle it up it can affect you, so if I can be that hope and give them the sense that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and inspire them to take care of their mental health, I think I’m doing the right thing,” he said.