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

Houston athlete trying out for regional girls’ team

Zone 7 girls’ team is first in eight years

Winter road maintenance standards boosted

Quicker response times, longer winter tire season to be implemented

HVAC overhaul to continue this summer

Upgrades at Houston Secondary School (HSS) are a long-time coming, according to… Continue reading

Northern B.C. rail service is unreliable and inadequate, trade minister says

Bruce Ralston pushes federal minister of transport to ensure reliable supply of rail cars

Celebrate the Value of Volunteering

National Volunteer Week is April 15-21

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Most Read