SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (AP) — Current and former NHL players laid sticks in front of a Humboldt Broncos jersey prior to a tribute country concert Friday night honoring the junior hockey team.
A crowd of over 10,000 people gathered at SaskTel Centre to remember those killed in the April 6 bus crash, and chants of "Go Broncos Go!" rang through the crowd shortly after Premier Scott Moe made a speech.
Current NHL players such as Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames and Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens were in attendance.
The stars who performed at the show, like Juno award winner Brett Kissel, anticipated before they took the stage that it would be an emotional night.
"When we play some of the fun songs we hope people have the most fun that they've ever had because they can, and because they should," Kissel told a news conference shortly before the show began. "When we play an emotional song tonight we hope if you want to cry, you want to let it out, the way that I might on stage, who knows, we'll take it as it comes, song by song."
The Hunter Brothers from Saskatchewan sang the national anthem while Chad Brownlee played a rendition of Tom Cochrane's "Big League." A video message from surviving Broncos player Brayden Camrud was played before the performances started along with a message from Chris Joseph, whose son Jaxon died in the crash.
The crowd also gave a section of first responders in attendance a standing ovation.
Kissel, as well as fellow Juno winners Dallas Smith and Jess Moskaluke, played some of their biggest hits.
On Thursday night, close to 50 current and former NHL players gave a standing ovation to families of the Broncos at a local hotel.
Scott Thomas, whose son Evan died in the crash, didn't expect to see such a big crowd.
"You could see the pain in their faces, you could see the respect that they have for what we're going through as parents, as hockey people," Thomas said. "There's just a lot of emotion in the room."
Hall of Famer Mike Modano said being with the families of the Broncos on Thursday night was really hard.
"I think that was the first time a lot of those families had been together since the accident," he said. "It was really heart wrenching to just kind of be there and put some names to the faces finally that we've heard about."
The Country Thunder Music Festival said money from the $65 concert tickets will be donated to the families.