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Broncos one of hockey’s greatest stories of survival

There is little doubt in Gregg Drinnan’s mind, the tale of the Swift Current Broncos’ path to Memorial Cup victory in 1989 is one of hockey’s greatest stories of survival.

Just three years before its victory in Saskatoon, the team suffered a tragic bus accident that killed four key players. Through the same period and not known until many years later the team was coached by sexual predator Graham James, who victimized at least two of them.

The team’s comeback is the subject of Drinnan’s soon to be published book entitled Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos. The book, to be published by Dundurn Press, is expected on Canadian bookshelves in September.

Drinnan, now sports editor at The Daily News, was assistant sports editor at the Regina Leader Post at the time of the accident.cheapnfljerseysonlinez There was no denying the impact the crash had in Swift Current, the province and the Western Hockey League, he said.

“It was huge. Three of the kids were from Saskatchewan,” he said.

The crash caused changes to WHL travel policies, for example, that gave team drivers the ability to cut short travel if weather conditions were too severe. It also cast watchful eyes on the young team as it moved forward.

Little was spoken publicly about the crash as the team played on, he noted. While it’s clear, based on after the fact interviews, that the players on the team played for their dead teammates, none spoke it at the time for fear the mention of that might somehow jinx their effort.

It wasn’t until the Cup was in hand that the emotional nature of the victory become apparent. The players talked of their lost teammates and how they felt them watching from above. To this day, the Broncos wear special shoulder patches on their team jerseys a four leaf clover with the numbers of the killed players in memorial to them.

Drinnan said he was approached last year by two people and asked if he would help put together the book. They had assembled a rough manuscript. He read through it and agreed to assist.

He said the team’s passage through an extremely dark period and its eventual Memorial Cup victory is a testament to the inner strength of that young squad.

They survived events that might have crushed others, especially since their coach a man who was later convicted of molesting two of the boys on that very squad, including Sheldon Kennedy offered them so little support. James refused to allow the team to speak with grief counsellors, likely to keep his own activity from being discovered.

“It’s a story about survival first, and then comeback. They were kids at the time, many of them away from home for the first time,” Drinnan said. “It’s an amazing story.”.

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