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Local teammate of Humboldt victim helping to organize fund-raising skate in Orillia

Skate for Humboldt goes Saturday from 6-7 p.m.; 'It's just hockey as a community giving back,' says Mackenzie Micks, who played with Broncos assistant coach Mark Cross at York

The deadly crash involving the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team ripped open the heart of a nation. Words were not easy to find; tears could not be stopped.

The tragedy, though it happened far away, felt close to home. We may not have known the 16 victims, but their story was one we all understood and shared as Canadians. It resonated and reverberated through rinks in Orillia and from coast to coast.

When Orillia’s Mackenzie Micks first heard the news of the crash, he was shaken. Quickly, his mind was filled with memories of long bus trips and the unique bond shared by boys chasing their hockey dreams.

“About 10 minutes after I first saw the news, I got a text message saying Mark (Cross) was on the bus,” Micks told OrilliaMatters. “It was just … surreal. At that point, nobody knew much. It was just so awful.”

Micks and Cross were teammates at York University. Micks’s last two seasons with the Lions (2010-2012) were the first two seasons for Cross at York.

Sadly, Cross, who served as an assistant coach with the Broncos, was among the victims in the April 6 catastrophe.

“I know people often say this after a tragedy, but Mark was just the most selfless, genuine person I ever met in my more than 20 years playing hockey,” said Micks. “He was a great guy.”

Micks said you really get to know a person when you play together at the varsity level. “It’s not the same as junior hockey. When I played for the Orillia Terriers, we would show up before a game, we’d have a practice, we hung out together at times … but at York, we were on the ice three hours a day, we took courses together, we lived together and all I can say is Mark was a phenomenal person.”

Micks, who thought Orillia was a small town growing up, said Cross talked often about his hometown – Strasbourg, Saskatchewan. Population 800.

Last week, Micks made the pilgrimage to the tiny village with more than two dozen York University teammates for Cross's funeral. “The arena was packed with 3,000 people and I know there would have been more if logistics and timing could have been worked out,” said Micks.

He said the outpouring of support he felt in rural Saskatchewan was heartening. It made him want to do something to help. So, when Orillia’s Mike Torkoff talked to him about an idea for a public skate to raise money for the Broncos, Micks jumped at the opportunity to help.

“It’s just hockey as a community giving back,” said Micks. “Mark went out of his way to help people. Every single person spoke about that at his funeral. We’re just trying to do our part.”

The Skate for Humboldt will be held Saturday, April 28 from 6-7 p.m. at Rotary Place. There is no cost to skate. Rather, organizers hope people give generously to support the Broncos – and Cross. Half of the proceeds will go to the Broncos and half of the proceeds will go to the Mark Cross Memorial Fund.

Micks said he and his York brethren hope to raise $50,000 for a scholarship in Cross’s name; York has said it will match donations.

“I have to admit I’m still shook up. I’m at a loss for words” about the tragedy, Micks said. “When I played in Drummondville, we had a 16-hour bus trip. Everybody knows when you’re playing junior, riding the bus is one of the best things about the experience. It just hits so close to home.”

Micks, now a real estate agent in Orillia, encourages people to be generous. He said those who aren’t able to skate are just as welcome to come out, share in the spirit of the event and make a donation. All are encouraged to wear the Broncos’ colours of green and yellow.

For more information or, if you can’t make the April 28 event and want to donate to the cause, call Micks at 705-955-1624 or email [email protected] or Mike Torkoff at [email protected]


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Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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