Stephen and Justin Wack are shown in an undated photo. Stephen Wack (left), a 21-year old defenceman with the Humboldt Broncos, was killed when the team’s bus collided with a semi truck at an intersection on the way to a playoff game. His funeral, along with three other players, will be held Tuesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Courtesy of Justin Wack

Brother remembers Broncos hockey player as humble, honest, hard-working

Stephen Wack, a 21-year old defenceman with the Humboldt Broncos, was killed when the team’s bus collided with a semi truck

Playing with mini-sticks in the basement is a common activity for many hockey-loving families.

For the Wack brothers, who grew up in St. Albert, Alta., it was a little different.

“I’d wear the goalie mask and a can,” Justin Wack, 18, recalled in an interview with The Canadian Press. “He’d get a full-sized stick and I’d get a mini-stick. Then he’d have the bigger net and I’d have the smaller one.

“He would just wing slappers at me.”

Justin, who’s blind, said it actually worked quite well.

“I play hockey myself now and I’m a goalie.”

Justin’s big brother, Stephen, died in a crash between a semi-truck and the Humboldt Broncos team bus at a rural Saskatchewan intersection on April 6.

The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game and 16 people, including 10 players, would die in or after the collision.

Related: A look at the victims of the Humboldt team bus crash

Related: ‘Big little brother:’ Broncos head coach remembered for kindness, faith

Stephen Wack, who was 21, played junior hockey in Alberta with the Camrose Kodiaks and the Whitecourt Wolverines before moving to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

The six-foot-five defenceman spent the last two seasons playing with the Broncos.

“He was a very defensive, shut-down guy,” said his brother. “Sometimes they’d have him play forward on a power play. He would stand in front of the goalie and he would drive guys nuts. He’s a big guy.”

Justin said he and his parents, Tricia and Alan Wack, drove to Saskatchewan to see Stephen play a couple of nights before he died.

When they heard the bus was in a crash, they immediately got back in the car to make the 700-kilometre drive from St. Albert again.

They only knew it was bad.

“I want to give a lot of credit to first responders,” he said. “It was such a mess. They really, really did what they could.

“Sixteen people didn’t make it, but there’s still 13 kids who did.”

The Wack family didn’t know what had happened to Stephen, but they were worried because he wasn’t answering their texts and calls.

At 2:30 a.m., as they were still driving, they got the call from the RCMP.

He had died in the crash.

Justin said his brother had “so many qualities.”

“He was really humble, really honest,” he said. “He had a work ethic like no other. He just worked really, really hard. He never quit.”

He made videos. He loved surfing and hanging out at the lake.

And he was close to his family.

“I went to a lot of his games as a kid,” said Justin, who recalled one team when Stephen was nine or 10. “They got me to come into the dressing room, sit in a circle, gave me a team jacket and said, ‘You’re going to be our junior coach.’”

Justin would hang out with the boys and talk with them before games.

“He kept me involved in his games. It was nice to go support him and also be a part of the team.”

Stephen also pushed his little brother to be his best.

“Sometimes, being blind, people don’t realize what you’re capable of doing … Stephen always let me do my own thing.

“If he knew I was capable of doing it myself, he wouldn’t intervene.”

He appreciated it — even if it meant his brother was shooting pucks at him in the basement.

“We pushed each other. That was a big part of our relationship.”

A service for Wack and teammates Logan Hunter, Jaxon Joseph and Parker Tobin is to be held Tuesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Related: British Columbians show their support for Humboldt with ‘Jersey Day’

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Castlegar teens rescue man from river

Will Watt and Shay LaFayette helped save a fisherman from the Kootenay River.

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

West Kootenay gleaner’s group gets big funding boost

CBT grant allows project to save more local produce from compost bin

Fruitvale man identified in fatal zipline accident in Thailand

Spencer Donaldson, 25, was from Fruitvale, B.C., the city’s mayor has confirmed

RDCK passes climate change ‘call to arms’

Director says the statement will help guide policy

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

VIDEO: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Singh says childhood abuse steeled him for scrutiny and stress of politics

He recounts the assaults for the first time in his book Love & Courage

Despite five extra weeks’ parental leave in Canada, dads still face stigma: survey

One reason people said dads don’t need leave is because they can just bond with their kids at weekend

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

Most Read