NWJHL fans lined the seats at the Baytex Energy Centre on Saturday night.
Before the first regular season game started for the North Peace Navigators and the Fort St. John Huskies, a ceremony honouring the life and contributions of Darcy Haugan took place. The ceremony was hosted by the North Peace Navigators President, Albert Cooper.
“This is, for me, a family night to honour Darcy and his family, says Cooper. “They have contributed a great deal to our team, and our community.”
The Fort St. John Huskies, North Peace Navigators, and Navigators alumni which included players from previous years, going all the way back to the team’s first season, were in attendance on the ice while Cooper and other representatives from the NWJHL recounted stories and paid their respects to Darcy.
As the ceremony continued, the Haugan family joined the others on the ice where members of the family including Darcy’s wife, Christina, and his father, Leroy, had kinds words to say about the late hockey coach and the community who have been supporting them. Soon after, the Haugan family was presented with memorial jerseys with Darcy’s name and number on them. Following that, the North Peace Navigators Head Coach Ken Quinney and Assistant coach Jody Menssa unveiled a new Darcy Haugan banner.
After North Peace Navigators alumni Brendan Dickson sang the national anthem, Darcy’s oldest son, Carson Haugan, led the arena in prayer.
The last part of the ceremony included a ceremonial puck drop, and after that, the first regular season game at the Baytex Centre was under way.
Before the game, the Trending 55 Newsroom got a chance to catch up with the Head Coach of the North Peace Navigators, Ken Quinney. Quinney says the team was coming off a 4 – 0 win in their exhibition game last week against the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings and were ready to begin their first game of regular season hockey.
“It’s a very important game for the community,” says Quinney. “I know the players are excited to be part of it, myself as well. We just want to show up tonight, get the season started, and move forward. Let’s play some hockey.”
Quinney explains he’s confident in his team as the Navigators have a strong core, and have solid back end defense. He also shared his thoughts on Darcy Haugan and his impact on the organization and the community.
“Darcy himself had a huge impact on the community. I believe without him, the North Peace Navigators would not be the team they are today. He laid the foundation for this organization – and it’s a strong one. I think what the coaching staff and I are now doing echoes what Darcy has started.”
Quinney also singled out the volunteers who made both the Humboldt Broncos games and the Darcy Haugan memorial game possible. “It’s a lot of work for everbody. I do think they need to be recognized, and to the volunteers, thanks for your help.”
It was an exciting and well played hockey game. In the first period, the Huskies managed to score the first goal of the game, but not long after, the Navs responded with a goal of their own to tie up the game.
As the game progressed, the Navigators got the edge and in the end, the score was 5 – 3 for the Navs. The entire team played well, but one Navigator stood out among the rest for having scored 4 of the 5 goals. That player was number 14, Levi Pichette. We got to catch up with him after the game to get his thoughts on the outcome of their first regular season match.
“It was awesome. To be able to go out there and battle back in the third for Darcy, I think he would’ve been proud of all of us. We’ve got a pretty tight-knit group this year so it was a lot of fun,” says Pichette.
Pichette credits his relationship with his teammates to the Navs’ success on the ice.
“The guys just connected really well from the start. My line mates are close on and off the ice, so that really helps out.”
With the size of the crowd and the meaning behind this memorial game, Pichette says the team was both nervous and excited as they headed onto the ice, but they used that feeling to fuel themselves for this game against Fort St. John.
NWJHL action will continue on Friday, when the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks travel to Peace River to take on the Navs.