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‘The first one to show up’: Tyler Bieber among Broncos to be honoured at Riders game
Published Thursday, June 28, 2018 12:25PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, June 28, 2018 6:50PM CST
On Saturday night, Humboldt Broncos players, staff and community members will step onto the field at Mosaic Stadium before the Roughriders take on the Montreal Alouettes.
By all accounts, Broncos play-by-play voice Tyler Bieber should have been there.
“If he was still with us, he would definitely want to go,” said Rachel Popoff, who Bieber coached on the football field. “He would be the first one to buy tickets.”
But, fate had another idea.
On a lonely stretch of Saskatchewan highway on April 6, the Broncos team bus collided with a semi-truck at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335. Sixteen people — including Bieber — were killed. Thirteen more were injured.
The 29-year-old was a Saskatchewan boy through and through. His winter love was hockey; his summer love was football.
Community love for the Broncos is strong in Humboldt, but it’s also a football town.
“They support it by coming out to our games. There’s not a bleacher that’s empty when home games are here,” Humboldt Mohawks coach Cory Popoff said. “Our alumni come and wear their Mohawk gear and it’s just awesome.”
Bieber was the wide receiver coach and a standout on the coaching staff.
“He was always the first one to show up. He was the first one to show up for practice. He was ready to go. He was helping people to be ready to go,” Cory explained. “And he was always the last one to leave. His commitment was second to none.”
That commitment, and Bieber’s friendship with her father Cory, was what inspired Rachel to take up flag football under Bieber’s coaching in Grade 9.
“He was a really good coach,” she said. “He was my favourite coach that I’ve had.”
When he wasn’t out on the field, Bieber was in the broadcast booth. Local station Bolt FM recruited him, choosing to hire and train local talent rather than looking for staff somewhere else.
“From day one, you knew he had a natural talent for it,” said former Bolt employee Clark Stork. “He was a great news reader, he could jump over and do a radio show. He was super nice to everybody and he was a great team player.”
Stork called the Broncos games for five years before handing the reins to Bieber.
“He’s everything you would want in an employee and a friend as well,” he said.
Even though he was calling hockey games, Stork says Bieber’s main focus was football.
“Football definitely was his number one passion,” he said.
A hometown boy, Bieber spent some time in Regina before making his way back to Humboldt.
“He was so devoted to his community,” Stork said. “It’s just a terrible loss.”
His dedication was evident in his coaching and his work in the community.
“He made better programs for people here,” Cory said.
As for the Humboldt Strong game, it will mean a lot to Bieber’s mom, brothers and the community as a whole.
“He would have absolutely loved it,” Cory said.
“He lived a great life and got to experience a lot of things in just 29 short years,” Stork added. “We have the memories and they’ll just never fade.”
The Broncos will be honoured on the field before kickoff with a tribute video.
With files from CTV Regina’s Claire Hanna