Sitting quietly at his parents’ Winnipeg home, Matthieu Gomercic pores over a photo album filled with pictures of his teammates, the Humboldt Broncos.“It just kind of helps me not miss them as much, if that makes sense,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to see everyone.”It’s nice, but hard. They are some of the last photographs of the Humboldt Broncos team alive.
Matthieu Gomercic looks through his photo album with his mother.Global NewsThey’re more than Gomercic’s teammates — some were his best friends.“We were really tight. Everyone was really close,” Gomercic said.READ MORE: ‘Still so much pain’: Humboldt and the Broncos continue to heal 1 year after crashIt’s been a year-and-a-half since the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash, where 16 of Gomercic’s teammates, coaches and friends lost their lives when the driver of a semi-truck blew through a stop sign.Story continues below
It happened about halfway between Tisdale and Nipawin, where the Broncos were to play the Nipawin Hawks in Game 6 of their Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff that night.Gomercic has never spoken publicly about the crash.“Everyone was just looking forward to spending more time together because we were such a tight group … and obviously things changed,” he said.Gomercic was sitting at the back of the bus beside the washroom. It was a seat he hated, but one that he knows likely saved his life.He suffered a dislocated shoulder, had a brain bleed and concussion and needed stitches in his foot, but Gomercic walked away from the crash alive.“I kind of felt the brakes hit and looked up, and don’t really remember too much after that,” he said.READ MORE: Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos bus crash sentenced to 8 years in prisonHe spent two nights in the hospital and was one of only two Broncos players released in time to attend the Sunday night vigil for the team.“It’s all just a blur. Looking back on it, you remember getting out, going to the vigil and then after that it was kind of funeral after funeral. So it kind of blew by, two weeks pretty quick.”It’s still difficult for the former Bronco to talk about. He remembers texting his friends in the days after the crash and waiting for them to reply, but knowing they never would.Getting back on the ice and back playing hockey helps with the pain. It’s one of the places Gomercic said he feels most at home.“It’s something I’ve always loved. Then this happened. Some days it’s easier. Some days it’s harder,” he said. “But it helps me get through those bad days.”Matthieu Gomercic, with the blonde hair, hugs a mourner at the Humboldt Broncos memorial service last year.Global NewsThe Humboldt Broncos are remembered.Global NewsThe Humboldt Broncos are remembered.Global NewsGomercic now plays on a new team at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology where he’s in his second year studying Kinesiology.“When we traveled to games this year we took the bus. The first time it was weird. You get a little jumpy whenever the brakes get touched,” Gomercic said.“The second I stepped on … the same smell … it just kinda hit me that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d made out in my head.”Humboldt Broncos forward Matthieu Gomercic commits to Ridgebacks📖 https://t.co/FZxF3T3g9Z pic.twitter.com/VP63Sl7ErS— Ontario Tech Ridgebacks (@OT_Ridgebacks) July 17, 2018
However, he continues to get back on the bus and the ice not just for himself, but for those who can’t.Gomercic and the other players who survived continue to remain close with each other. They talk often through their group chat on text.While many have moved to other cities, schools and teams they still stay connected.“We were a tight group before, and this just made us tighter. I don’t think that’s a bond that can ever be broken.”VIDEO: Remembering the Humboldt Broncos