Before the 2018 NHL Draft began on Friday night, Commissioner Gary Bettman had something else to do that was of much greater importance. He wanted to honor the victims and survivors of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash from April, which claimed the lives of 16 people. As the commissioner took to the stage, the fans began booing him loudly, but it didn’t last long. In a very classy move, he asked fans to hold off on their booing because this moment wasn’t about him.
On Wednesday night, 10 survivors of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team attended the NHL Awards in Las Vegas. As reported by CBS Sports, it was the first time they had reunited since the crash happened in April and claimed the lives of so many of their friends.
All of those players, and three others who could not make the trip to Vegas, were honored at the awards show. One-by-one, they were invited onto the stage to address the crowd which had some of the best hockey players in the world staring right back at them.
The NHL was not done honoring those players, though, and on Friday night, Commissioner Bettman wanted to start things off with the focus on them. As he appeared, though, the crowd began booing him as most sports fans do for their least favorite commissioners.
Again, Bettman did the right thing.
After getting the crowd to calm down and stop with their negative reaction to him, Bettman began explaining what the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence was and how it started. While standing in front of the Broncos logo and a hashtag that read “#HumboldtStrong,” the commissioner presented the award to the entire team.
The fans who were booing him less than five minutes prior to that announcement were now giving a standing ovation. Broncos team president Kevin Garinger came out to accept the award for the team and let everyone know that all those who lost their lives “will forever be Humboldt Broncos.”
It was an extremely classy move by the NHL and it was made even more fitting by doing it before the 2018 NHL Draft was officially underway. For a moment, no one cared about who was going to land with what team, as the moment was strictly about the Humboldt Broncos and deservedly so.
The 2018 NHL Draft is a night when young men find out where their professional careers will begin and just how their hockey future will go. While all of that will still happen, the beginning of the evening was devoted to honoring and remembering the Humboldt Broncos. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman knew that he was going to get a negative reaction from the fans, but he was prepared for it and handled in the best possible way.