The alma mater of the assistant coach who was lost in the Humboldt Broncos crash played in the Elgar Petersen Arena as part of a tour honouring his memory.
The Mark Cross HumboldtStrong Remembrance Tour, organized by the York University Lions, made its second stop Sept. 21, where they faced off against the University of Calgary Dinos. The proceeds of the game are to go to the HumboldtStrong Foundation, while the proceeds from the other two will go towards the Mark Cross Memorial Sports Fund.
Russ Herrington, the Lions’ head coach, said there was a lot of emotions tied to playing this game in the EPA.
“It’s heart wrenching in one way because you don’t ever want to have a game like this,” he said, “but at the same time I think it’s inspiring for us to be here and skate on the same ice that those 16 did and, in particular, that Mark Cross coached his last game on the bench we’re going to be on tonight.”
In the end, the Dinos defeated the Lions 8-1.
Cross, who’s originally from Strasbourg, started his hockey career in the 2007-08 season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Tisdale Trojans before switching to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Estevan Bruins that same season. He stayed with the Bruins for four seasons before starting a five-year stint with York University.
Herrington started coaching at York during Cross’ last season with the Lions.
“Mark Cross changed our program by himself,” he said. “We asked for a new culture, higher standards, a new way of doing things when we came in as a staff.”
Cross bought in right away, the coach said. He not only made all the other players accountable to the new culture, he also helped pull them up so they could meet it.
Herrington said he’s been coaching for more than two decades and he hasn’t been in a dressing room where one particular player was idolized more than Cross. When it came to other players he’s coached, some were envied for their talent, but that wasn’t the case with Cross. Everybody just wanted to be him.
“He was just an incredible human being, a terrific student, a great boyfriend, a tremendous friend, an incredible son and everybody just idolized and tried to emulate the way he lived his life,” he said. “That’s how we’re trying to move forward as a program is to try to hold our players to that type of standard and say, ‘this is the why Mark Cross did things, this is the way we’d like you to do things.’”
After graduating with a kinesiology and health science degree, Cross coached the Lumsden/Bethune Lions Midget AA team for a season before coming to Humboldt. It was Lumsden where the first stop of the tour was made on Sept. 20. The Lions were defeated by the University of Regina Cougars 3-2.
Kaleb Dahlgren, who was part of last year’s Broncos, is a part of the Lions this year. While he can’t yet play games due to the injuries he received from the collision, he was at the EPA, practising with the team on the ice. He said Cross meant a ton to him.
“He was such a genuine and loving guy and I’m just thankful I had an opportunity to know him and have him in my life, to be honest,” he said. “He was such an influence on my life.
“He wanted me to go to York and so the fact that I’m here now and in this position, sitting here today and saying I’m part of York University and having it on behalf of Mark means the world to me.”
The last game of the tour took place Sept. 23 against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The Lions lost 5-2.