HUMBOLDT, Sask. – Brenden Prokopchuk wrote Dayna Brons a love letter for their five-year anniversary, not knowing she would die a few weeks later.
He told her that he was lucky to have her as his best friend and he looked forward to their next 50 years together. Prokopchuk read the letter aloud at her funeral Wednesday in Humboldt, Sask.
He broke into sobs as he walked off a stage in the arena and was enveloped in hugs from family and friends.
Brons, 24, was the athletic therapist for the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. She was injured after the team’s bus and a semi truck collided as the Broncos were on the way to a playoff game in northeastern Saskatchewan on April 6.
She died five days later in hospital, the 16th person to be killed in the crash. Nine others remain in hospital, including two in critical condition.
People filed into the Humboldt rink wearing Brons’s favourite colour, green, as well as green Humboldt Broncos jerseys to honour the young woman described as sunny, independent and tenacious.
Brons was raised on a farm in nearby Marysburg and attended school in Lake Lenore, Sask., where her family says she loved sports and was one of the few girls to play hockey.
She also played the saxophone. And she was an altar server at her family’s Catholic church.
After graduation, Brons studied kinesiology at the University of Regina, where she met Prokopchuk.
It took her four months to notice him, he told those gathered. He asked her out for sushi and they became an instant couple.
Brons eventually moved to Calgary to study athletic therapy and, when she was finished, moved to Saskatoon with Prokopchuk. She worked there for an elite lacrosse team and at a Saskatchewan Roughriders football training camp in 2016. She joined the Broncos the same year.
“Once hockey season started, she was excited to sign a contract with the Humboldt Broncos,” said the funeral program.
Brons often brought her beloved dog to work, friend Curtis Strueby said in his eulogy. The animal would run around the team’s dressing room and sit on the logo in the middle of the floor.
The players loved the dog anyway and they treated Brons like a teammate, Strueby said.
On several road trips, when the team stopped to eat at a restaurant, some players would claim it was Brons’s birthday to get a free dessert. She usually broke the truth to staff and had the players pay for it.
She loved being part of a team, said Strueby, who also taught Brons in high school and coached her in basketball.
She was selfless, he said. She volunteered and donated blood.
And she was always smiling.
“She was fantastic, reliable, really not fazed by anything,” he said.
Ralph Viczko, her high school principal, said after the service that Brons was so many things.
“Dayna was a really well-rounded kid,” he said. “It was athletics. It was music. It was band. It was ball.”
Honour guards for the funeral included Broncos and SWAT lacrosse alumni, along with athletic therapists from across the country, who brought their trademark fanny packs in tribute.