In memory of former Lions hockey player Mark Cross and all those affected by the tragic Humboldt Broncos team bus crash on April 6, the York Lions men’s hockey team will be travelling to Saskatchewan to participate in the Mark Cross HumboldtStrong Remembrance Tour, Sept. 20 to 23.
Cross spent five seasons with the Lions from 2011-16 and graduated with a degree in kinesiology and health science in 2016. He was one of the leaders in the Lions dressing room during his time with the team, serving as assistant captain for three seasons and was named team MVP for his fifth and final season with the team. Following his graduation, Cross returned to his hometown of Strasbourg, Sask., and coached midget hockey in Lumsden, Sask., for a year before being named an assistant coach with the Broncos for the 2017-18 season.
The Lions will play three games against teams from the CanWest conference as part of the tour and will also participate in a number of school visits, hockey clinics and community events.
“One of our main goals has been to find avenues where we can keep Mark Cross’ memory alive and find opportunities to tell others about Mark and how he made such an impact on all of us here at York,” said Lions head coach Russ Herrington. “We knew Mark was proud of his hometown and his home province, and he was always looking for ways to give back to those communities. We are incredibly honoured that the people of Strasbourg and Humboldt have been gracious enough to allow us to bring the Lions to their towns and let us give back in a way that we feel would make Mark proud.”
The Lions will play their first game of the tour on Thursday, Sept. 20 against the University of Regina in Lumsden, Sask. Cross grew up playing youth hockey in Lumsden and the game will serve as a fundraiser for the Mark Cross Memorial Sports Fund which was established in Strasbourg in honour of Cross’ memory.
For game two, the team will travel to Humboldt, Sask., where they will play the University of Calgary on Friday, Sept. 21 at the Elgar Petersen Arena, the Broncos home rink. All proceeds from this game will go towards the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation.
Since Cross was so involved with the Broncos and because of his strong connection to York University, the Lions had been actively recruiting several of the Humboldt Broncos players to play at York for the 2018-19 season, including Logan Schatz and Conner Lukan who were killed in the accident. In May, the Lions announced the commitment of forward Kaleb Dahlgren, one of the surviving Broncos players, to attend York for the 2018-19 school year.
“We became close with the Broncos organization as a result of Mark’s involvement as an assistant coach and the recruitment of Kaleb, Logan and Conner,” said Herrington. “We are excited to skate on the same ice and play in front of the Humboldt fans as they did, and we truly appreciate the Humboldt community allowing us the opportunity to play this game for them.”
The final game of the tour comes on Sunday, Sept. 23, when the Lions will play the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon. The Lions are working to partner with the Huskies in additional fundraising initiatives and will hopefully play the game in the Huskies brand new arena.
Shortly after the accident York University’s Athletics & Recreation established a fund in Cross’ honour, with the department pledging to match dollar for dollar the first $50,000 in donations. So far, the fund has raised close to $60,000 in donations and the University is working closely with the Cross family to find the most appropriate way to use those funds to honour Cross’ memory at York.
“We were all deeply saddened by the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Bronco’s and we have made it a priority to do whatever we can to help aid in the healing process,” said Jennifer Myers, Executive Director of Athletics & Recreation. “We still feel the loss of Mark every day but are incredibly grateful we could put together this tour to honour Mark’s legacy and support the family, friends, and communities affected by the crash.”
The men’s hockey team created an award named in honour of Cross’ memory. The Mark Cross Heart of a Lion Award will be presented to a player who best exemplifies the spirit of Mark through the characteristics of character, respect, optimism, sacrifice and selflessness (CROSS) each season. The Lions players and staff will be making presentations to community groups about the CROSS characteristics throughout the tour.
“While it is important for our players to get the chance to play three top notch Canada West opponents, this trip is obviously about much more than that,” said Herrington. “As a team, we are mainly focused on the opportunities we have to make an impact in Mark’s honour through our appearances and fundraising efforts for the Mark Cross Memorial Sports Fund and the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation. We are privileged and extremely thankful to have the support of Mark’s family, his girlfriend Molly and York Varsity Athletics to honour Mark’s legacy in this fashion.”
The Lions are still accepting donations from corporations or individuals to assist in covering the expenses involved with this tour. For those interested in supporting the trip to remember Mark Cross and assist in the healing process of the hockey community in Saskatchewan, visit www.giving.yorku.ca/hockeytour for further information.
The tour would not have been possible without the generous donations already made by lead sponsor Conexus Credit Union, additional sponsors Roy Foss Woodbridge, Sauce Hockey and Adidas as well as assistance from Charlie’s Charters, the Pioneer Hotel, Johnny’s Bistro and the Home Inn & Suites locations in both Regina and Saskatoon.