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He was a talented 'bench boss,' whose players all seemed to love him, and Darcy Haugan loved his players in return. But, even more than his players, he loved Jesus.

Darcy Haugan was the head coach of the Humboldt Broncos. He was among the first of the confirmed dead in Friday evening's accident. Almost immediately tributes began to pour in online about the man who loved the game of hockey.

This isn't surprising to Joell Haugan, Darcy's cousin. Joell, who is a pastor in Swift Current, SK, says Darcy's connection with young people came from his deep-rooted faith. Darcy grew up going to church, and had a strong faith in Jesus, Joell says. That faith is something that directed all aspects of Darcy's life whether it was work, hockey, or family.

"Darcy was always a very good hockey player," cousin Joell Haugan says. "He played for quite a few teams, including Briercrest at one point."

When his playing career ended, Darcy took to coaching. He was an assistant coach with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's (SJHL) Estevan Bruins, and seemed to enjoy it.

Joell says that Darcy started thinking of starting a family with his wife Christina, and they decided to move back to his hometown of Peace River, AB. He helped his dad, Leroy, run the family tire shop. And he began coaching the Peace River Junior B team, the North Peace Navigators.

"He just loved Jesus"

"Darcy did a wonderful job with that team," Joell says. "He brought them to an incredible record. 300 wins and 100 losses, or something like that." Actually, Darcy's record coaching the Navigators was 400 wins, 137 losses and 19 overtime defeats in 718 games.

Manitoba Moose forward Darren Kramer was one of the players on that team. His tribute was just one of the many online tributes about Darcy that was shared on the weekend.

"He coached our decorated Jr. B team to one championship after another," Kramer said. "When I was playing my last few seasons in Peace River, the first door you would see when you’d enter our old arena would be the one to his iconic office, even if I showed up 3 hours before practice I would be running the risk of being late on the ice because I would be in a conversation neither of us wanted to end."

"He definitely took an attitude of ministry towards his job"

"As a believer, I'm positive that he knew he needed to treat his players with the same respect as a pastor would," Joell says. "Especially coaching junior hockey. You're dealing with kids that are 16 to 20. They're not grown adults ... it seemed like he could tap into that almost like he was a youth pastor essentially. He tapped into that, encouraging kids, and giving them second chances when they ran into trouble."

Indeed, that grace that flowed from Darcy's faith in Jesus, is exactly what another online tribute by a former player focussed on. Bud Dyck was another of Darcy's players on the Navigators.

"You gave me a second chance when I didn't deserve it," the posts states. "Thank you for showing me there is so much more to hockey and life then (sic) what happens on the ice."

"He left a legacy of hope through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

"He definitely took an attitude of ministry towards his job," Joell says. Darcy's example is something we should all try to emulate, Joell says. "I mean, it's something we all should do. Regardless of whether we're a pastor or not. Whatever our calling is, we should be taking it as God has put us in that particular job or calling for His purposes."

"This has hit the entire country," Lorne Korol says. Korol works for para-church sports ministry Athletes in Action as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' and Winnipeg Jets' chaplain.

Korol never met Darcy but is connected to a number of Darcy's friends through the hockey world. "I've heard nothing but good things about Darcy," Korol says. "He was a phenomenal hockey player, but an even better man of God. He'll be sorely missed, but he left a legacy. He left a legacy of hope through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

An Athlete in Action colleague of Korol's, Barret Kropf, arrived in Humboldt to minister to the community. Yesterday he posted an online, speaking of Darcy's legacy.

"While he will be remembered as a great coach that loved his players, he is remembered by me as a man who loved his God!" the post says. "Here is a sample of his legacy from today:

1)Parent at hospital- 'Darcy brought joy back to the game for my son'

2)Fellow Coach - 'Darcy always had time for me whenever I called him'

3)Community Leader - 'Darcy put Humboldt back on the map again with a great atmosphere on his team.'

The post continued though, once again highlighting Darcy's faith in Jesus.

"But the most telling legacy was while his family gathered today, and a moment for a time of prayer approached, the adults were unable to utter any words as they grieved, but Darcy's 12 year old son Carson stepped forward and lead with a powerful prayer for his family! Darcy you lead on and off the ice, and your lasting legacy will be in your sons and wife having had you be the man of God they needed you to be!"

Read more:

"We all must pray" - nation turns to prayer after tragic accident

Winnipegger among survivors in bus crash

Two Golden West employees die in Humboldt tragedy

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