There’s a special night of hockey coming up at the Elgar Petersen Arena this Saturday, as the Humboldt Broncos celebrate our emergency responders. The Emergency Services Appreciation Game pits the Humboldt Broncos against the La Ronge Ice Wolves as the action heats up in the regular season final stretch.  

All emergency services personnel from across the province are welcome to attend the game for free by simply identifying themselves to the front gate personnel. The pre-game has some special introductions and some surprises in store in a  pre-game and puck drop ceremony. 

The game will be attended by some special guests from Dawg Nation, a charitable organization born out of a rec-league hockey team in Denver Colorado. Dawg Nation has committed to charitable works across North America, and they’ve been supporters of the Broncos since the tragic 2018 Broncos Bus Tragedy.  

Now a group of Dawg Nation members and supporters will make a regular season pit stop in Humboldt, complete with local tours and Humboldt hospitality. Marty Richardson is the president of Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation. 

“We were a group of beer league guys whose team name was the Dawgs,” explained Richardson. “In 2009, of 15 players in the locker room, not one, not two, but three were diagnosed with cancer in a nine-day period. Each of those guys would work their chemo and radiation treatments around our game schedule, and we kept them all on the roster.” 

The Dawgs lost all their games that season, but that came a distant second to supporting their buddies in the fight of their lives. A fourth player fell ill to an auto-immune disease and sadly passed away. That tragic event prompted Richardson and crew to rise through the sorrow and work to support their Dawg brothers and their families and other families enduring similar hardships. They established a non-profit support organization, the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation.  

From its meagre beginnings, the organization has grown to a supportive network that has given away over $5 million. The fundraising relies on a schedule of hockey and golf tournaments, comedy nights and other sponsored gigs. During this time, Richardson crossed paths with Watson’s Peter McNab of NHL fame. McNab was a broadcaster for the Colorado Avalanche who took to talking about the Dawg Nation initiative on air. From there, the movement exploded.  

“What happened is we got a lot of hockey royalty involved on the very early end of this,” Richardson said, “That escalated it quite a bit. Then there were some recipients that we helped that were sad stories, but they drew attention to us which allowed us to generate a lot more money.” 

In the days following the Bronco tragedy, Dawg Nation mobilized to bring what relief they could. Through work connections, Richardson had been involved in sledge hockey in the States, and he was attending the national championships in Chicago when Bronco Ryan Straschnitzki, from his recovery bed, professed his determination to return to hockey as a sledge player. In a serendipitous turn, Richardson received a call from Canada alerting him to Straschnitzki’s statement. From there, the connection with the Humboldt Broncos was born thanks to a phone call to then Bronco President Kevin Garinger. 

Richardson and some of Dawg Nation have since made pilgrimages to Humboldt for the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Golf Tournament, and on Saturday night, a Colorado contingent will be at the game honouring first responders. 

Two of those in attendance will be Dave Repsher and his wife Amanda, who produced the top bid in a Dawg Nation benefit auction for the trip to Humboldt. Dave was a helicopter medic who was nearly killed in a tragic helicopter crash while he was on duty. Repscher received burns to over 90 percent of his body in the accident that killed several others. Repscher’s story and his recovery are nothing short of miraculous, and they will be the focus of an upcoming article on 

Come on out this Saturday to honour our emergency services responders, meet the representatives of Dawg Nation, and get set for some special pre-game surprises and announcements this Saturday, February 24 at the Elgar Peterson Arena.  

Here is the interview with Dawg Nation's Marty Richardson.