EDMONTON — They played hockey together, they lived their lives together and they died together.
On Tuesday, they were also remembered together at a memorial service in Edmonton.
Jaxon Joseph of Edmonton, Parker Tobin of Stony Plain, and Logan Hunter and Stephen Wack — both of St. Albert — were among 16 people with the Humboldt Broncos who died after a transport truck and the Saskatchewan junior hockey team's bus collided on April 6.
"There's nothing more fitting than to do more than one funeral at once," said Sean Brandow, the team's pastor. "That's really what hockey is all about. It's not everything that these boys were known for — but it showed on and off the ice they loved each other.
"They were a brotherhood, in a sense."
The memorial at Rogers Place was attended by about 3,000 people and broadcasted online.
Mourners walked by the iconic Wayne Gretzky statue into the arena, the building's ticker sign reading #HumboldtStrong. A mini stick was left at the bottom of the statue, with #untilnextime #HumboldtStrong and #NeverForgotten. A goalie stick was placed at one of the doors.
Police cars escorted the funeral procession with four hearses through busy downtown traffic. Teens showed up in hockey jerseys and police, firefighters and military members were in uniform.
Premier Rachel Notley and many other politicians attended.
The names of the four players were on the score board and ticker screen that goes around Rogers Place, home ice for the Edmonton Oilers.
Joseph's father, Chris Joseph, was a defenceman with several NHL teams, including the Oilers.
"Jaxon, we miss you very much," he said at the memorial. "Today, we will celebrate you and Logan and Parker and Stephen and try to get through that the best we can.
"I've found in the past few days that I have a trigger word that makes me sad but it makes me happy and that word is proud. We are so, so, so proud of you Jaxon."
Joseph's family highlighted his love of his teammates, his big heart and his warm personality.
Tobin, 18, was in his first season with the Broncos as a goalie after being traded from the Spruce Grove Saints in Alberta.
It was initially believed he was alive and recovering in hospital, but the coroner's office later said it had made a mistake and Tobin had died in the crash.
A family friend described Tobin as a wonderful, athletic, intelligent, funny young man who took life in stride.
"His calm sensible demeanour was sprinkled with a dash of dry humour that clearly came from his Newfie roots," said Barb Potter. "He loved being a part of any sports teams, especially hockey, and Parker was a goalie through and through."
Logan Hunter, also 18, was remembered for his love of sports, particularly hockey.
"Hockey was his passion, his dream and his focus," said his dad, Lawrence Hunter. "I loved to watch Logan play the game he loved."
He said the word that has brought him some peace in recent days is love.
"Our son Logan swelled with love — love of family, love of friends, love of animals and love of sport."
Wack, 21, had a passion for videography and was on the honour roll each year in high school.
"Hockey was a huge part of Stephen, but hockey never defined who he was," said his friend, Curtis Peck. "He had many loves in his life."
Wack was also remembered for his strong faith.
The memorial ended with a message from the siblings of the four young men.
"We stand in front of you today together to show you that despite losing a brother, losing a friend and losing a son; despite losing a piece of us, we have all gained a family," said Jaxon's sister, Taylor Joseph. "We stand together to symbolize how strong the hockey family is."
Ten funerals have already been held for crash victims in communities across Saskatchewan and Alberta, and another three will be held this week.
Thirteen others were injured in the crash and nine remain in hospital, with two still in critical condition.
Chris Purdy and Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
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