The Red Deer Minor Hockey community showed their support for the Humboldt Broncos by donning jerseys at the annual RDMH Year-End BBQ Bash. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

WATCH: Red Deer Minor Hockey shows support for Humboldt

Close to 1,000 people turned out for the annual Red Deer Minor Hockey Year-End BBQ Bash

As vast as this country is, it seems hockey is always the thing that makes us feel so close.

That was no more evident than Wednesday night at the Red Deer Minor Hockey Year-End BBQ Bash, where almost a 1,000 people involved in minor hockey gathered at the Pidhereny Centre.

An event that usually brings together a modest crowd of around 600 minor hockey players and their families packed the curling rink this year for the unique occasion.

In a powerful show of strength and support for the hockey community, nearly the entire audience donned hockey jerseys in support of the Humboldt Broncos. The Broncos’ bus was involved in a horrific crash last Friday and 16 people lost their lives in the tragedy.

“The hockey world is a small world. But it’s also an extremely supportive world,” RDMH GM Dallas Gaume said, calling the turnout one of the highlights of the season.

“I think a big part of it is the tragedies that have gone on and people want to get out and show their support… it warms your heart to see this many people show up and reach out to help in a heartbreaking time like this.”

While the Humboldt tragedy is still echoing every day across the hockey world, RDMH is also mourning the loss of the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs assistant captain Ryan McBeath. Ryan died tragically in a car accident on March 13. The organization played a short tribute video for Ryan and his family at the event Wednesday.

Even with the somber events of the past several months, the minor hockey season had some highlights from local players and teams.

The Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs won bronze at the Midget AAA Female Provincials hosted on home ice, which Gaume said was a positive note near the end of the season.

“It was a really good tournament and we were proud to host it. Anytime we can showcase the Midget AAA Female team and get them in front of a good crowd, it’s good for everybody,” Gaume added.

RDMH also honoured a pair of volunteers for their dedication on Wednesday. Rob Kellough who has coached at various levels of minor hockey, was given the Coach Award Of Excellence.

“You do it because you want to be involved with your kids and create some memories,” Kellough said.

Dallis Smith was presented with the Volunteer Award of Excellence. She’s helped out at several levels of minor hockey throughout her family’s time with the organization.

“I have met the most amazing families and Red Deer Minor Hockey have been so great along the way,” she said.

“For those of you with little guys, milk it all because it goes really fast.”

As usual at the event, RDMH also celebrated the Chiefs Award winners.

Kyle Budvarson, Jaden Callen, Carter Bettenson, Jesse Jack, Jolie Nafziger, Ben Franz, Andrew Wallace, Josh Hilts, Brady Leroux, Ryann Holbein, Ayden Cook, Raya Hastings, Barrett Newfield, Jayden Lachman, Brendan Meszaros, Caeden House, Kynnedi Hunter, Grace Johnston, Kayden Slepicka were all chosen as winners from their respective teams.

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