Tyler Bieber and Brody Hinz were just like so many fledgling members of the Football Reporters of Canada when most of us started our affiliations with sports media — enthusiastic, young, hard-working people who loved the games, the numbers and the people involved.
They lost their lives April 6, heading to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game in Nipawin when the Humboldt Broncos’ bus collided with a semi-trailer at a highway intersection. Sixteen members of the team died and 13 were injured. Bieber, 29 and a volunteer coach at the local high school, was in his first season as the Broncos’ radio play-by-play announcer at BoltFM. Hinz, 18 and a Grade 12 student at Humboldt Collegiate, was the team’s volunteer statistician who helped with the broadcasts.
While so many people across Saskatchewan, Canada and the world were affected by the tragedy, the FRC realized we had lost two people with close connections to the reporters, announcers, broadcasters, writers and commentators from across Canada who regularly cover the CFL. Because of that, FRC president Mike Hogan and fellow member Ed Tait suggested the group find a way to commemorate and honour their work and memory. It was decided to donate the Tyler Bieber & Brody Hinz Memorial Award to Humboldt Collegiate’s Best Prepared Athlete.
With amazing help from Humboldt Collegiate’s staff and teachers, Dylan Larson, a Grade 12 student, was presented as the inaugural recipient of the award during the school’s athletics awards night on Tuesday. Larson played numerous sports, including basketball and badminton, and served as a mentor for many younger teammates.
Shaun Gardiner, the school’s athletic director and vice-principal, spoke glowingly about Larson and said he was a deserving winner of an award named after two people like Bieber and Hinz. Members of both families were at the presentation, which is tremendously humbling to the FRC.
A devoted sports and football fan, before immersing himself in his play-by-play role, Bieber had developed his own website to discuss all CFL matters. He regularly interacted with fans and numerous FRC members, to the point where our group felt a kinship with him, even though few met him face-to-face.
Hinz dealt with a form of autism that perhaps helped him become such a statistical wizard that he predicted good things for the Vegas Golden Knights, long before the first-year expansion team advanced to the Stanley Cup final. Hinz wanted to work in sports management, which would have put him in direct dealings with the media, but we already knew his vital importance to the Broncos and Bieber.
Cory Popoff, Humboldt Collegiate’s principal, told me during our early conversations about Hinz’s mastery of numbers. And when I delivered the trophy bearing his friends’ names, he was watching the Saskatchewan Roughriders practise at Glenn Hall Park, named after one of Humboldt’s most famous athletes. Popoff said Hinz and Bieber both would have been in attendance at the Roughriders’ practice, Hinz with a friendly greeting for everyone, maybe doing some calculations, and Bieber in shorts, cleats and wearing receiver’s gloves, studying everything the pro receivers did.