DALLAS -- The Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League were remembered and honored prior to the start of the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft when they were presented the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence on Friday.
Broncos president Kevin Garinger accepted the engraved crystal from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on behalf of the team on the stage at American Airlines Center.
Video: Humboldt Broncos receive E.J. McGuire Award
The award, presented by NHL Central Scouting in honor of the late McGuire, is given to the candidate who best exemplifies the commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
The Broncos lost 16 team members in a bus crash on the afternoon of April 6 on their way to play Game 5 of their SJHL semifinal-round playoff series against Nipawin. There were 13 survivors of the crash.
"The Humboldt Broncos Junior Hockey Club, including its families and its community, is honored by the recognition provided by the NHL through the presentation of the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence," Garinger said in a statement. "The Broncos have always been committed to showing leadership and excellence in all things on and off the ice. Since the unthinkable tragedy that devastated our organization, those efforts have been amplified. However, as we rebuild, we could not be where we are today without the people and organizations from all over the world which have supported us, including the NHL. To them we say, we hear you, we feel your love, and we are truly humbled and grateful."
[RELATED: Humboldt coach wins Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award]
Ten of the survivors reunited for the first time in Las Vegas on Monday and were recognized at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Humboldt coach Darcy Haugan, among the 16 who died in the crash, was honored with the inaugural Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award on Wednesday. Haugan's wife, Christina, accepted the award on his behalf.
"The E.J. McGuire award recognizes a commitment to excellence and emphasizes 'strength of character,' a trait that E.J. illustrated throughout his career and his life," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting. "The more we all have learned of the Humboldt Broncos organization, coaches and players, and of how they were part of the fabric of the Humboldt community, it brought home how the mentorship and commitment to be the best you can be both on and off the ice instilled the strength of character that this award is meant to recognize.
"It's this strength of character which will also continue to help and support the families of those who lost loved ones and to the survivors who still face a long and difficult journey. We can find no better way than to recognize and honor the 2017-18 Humboldt Broncos than by forever remembering them with this award presentation."
Video: Humboldt Broncos honored at NHL Awards
McGuire was director of NHL Central Scouting for seven years before dying of cancer in April 2011. A coach at the collegiate, junior and American Hockey League levels, an assistant for 12 years with three NHL teams and a scout for two teams, McGuire began serving as Director of Central Scouting in 2005.
"Everybody on that bus, from [athletic therapist/equipment manager] Dayna Brons, to [play-by-play broadcaster] Tyler Bieber, to [team statistician] Brody Hinz, were going that night with one goal in mind with the players and coaches, and that was to win a game in Nipawin," said Craig Button, TSN resident director of scouting, NHL analyst and former NHL general manager.
"But what they represented to a greater extent were the goals they had. I think we can all relate to pursuing your goal and the sacrifices made in pursuing your goals, and that's what they were doing. We can all can relate to that."
Humboldt has produced six NHL players since being founded in 1970: defensemen Sheldon Brookbank, Curt Giles and Grant Jennings; centers Bill McDougall and Terry Ruskowski; and forward Neil Hawryliw. Jennings won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.