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The new coach and general manager of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team says he’s excited to get started, but will never forget the tragic circumstances that brought him to the role.

The team announced on Tuesday that former NHL defenceman Nathan Oystrick will fill the vacancy left by Darcy Haugan, who was among 16 killed when the team’s bus and a semitruck collided at a rural intersection in April. Thirteen others were injured in the crash.

“I did not know Darcy Haugan. But like so many people in this world today, I wish I had,” Oystrick said at a news conference. “I believe in his commitment to not just developing skilled hockey players, but developing great human beings and I hope that I can make him proud while doing this job.”

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He said Haugan’s inspirational message painted on the wall outside the dressing room would remain. Among other things, Haugan’s “core covenant” said Broncos players must put family first, treat others with respect, and play and practice with passion.

Oystrick, 35, who is from Saskatchewan, played professional hockey for 10 seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers, Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues. He also played 338 games in the American Hockey League.

He was most recently head coach of Colorado Academy high school.

Broncos president Kevin Garinger said there were more than 50 applicants for the job.

“What I appreciate about Nathan in general is that he is committed to people first,” Garinger said. “And through the commitment to people, comes a commitment then to an organization, a community and ultimately a hockey team.”

Oystrick said he has not met any of the survivors of the crash.

He said when he heard he got the job, he felt a mixture of nerves and excitement.

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“I want to make the Humboldt Broncos organization and the community proud of not only me, but of our team.”

Oystrick, who has been an assistant coach in the ECHL minor hockey league in the United States, said he has an upbeat and open leadership style.

“On the ice, I want to play a fast-paced, in-your-face game … My goal here is to win championships, but also to build strong-character people,” he said.

“Off the ice, I want to build relationships with the people of Humboldt in the community and help wherever and whenever I can.”

He said that for him, hockey is about making connections.

“If I’ve learned anything in my playing career, it’s that the biggest thing that hockey does for anyone is build relationships, whether it’s in your community, your teammates, your coaches – it doesn’t matter.”

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