The mother of injured Humboldt Broncos player Ryan Straschnitzki has shed a lot of tears over the past year and that didn’t change as the family finally returned to its newly renovated home Saturday.
Michelle Straschnitzki was handed a box of tissues by her husband Tom as the entire clan walked into the family home in Airdrie, just north of Calgary.
But this time it was tears of joy.
“It is. It’s been a heck of a year and a bit, but we’re going to celebrate this moment and keep in mind why we’re here now and everybody’s still in our hearts. We’re grateful to be home,” she said wiping away tears.
Ryan Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down in the April 6, 2018, crash between a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos and a semi-trailer. Sixteen people died and 13 others, including Ryan, were injured.
The family has been living in hotels since July while the home was renovated. It now includes an elevator down to his new man cave in the basement and a separate heating unit for his bedroom because he’s unable to sense when his body is too hot or too cold.
It also includes hockey memorabilia including a framed jersey from his favourite player, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, his number 10 Broncos jersey and a big-screen TV and sound system.
“Awesome. This is too good to be true. It’s amazing. Wow,” he said beaming.
“I’m like speechless. Everything has just been amazing and you saw my mom with the tears going on. Just her reaction shows what this house is like and it’s like a whole new house and I’m really excited.”
Straschnitzki intends to have his friends over to watch the rest of the NHL playoffs and he’s thrilled to have his life return to a bit of normalcy.
“It gives me more independence with the laundry room and the open bedroom. Even having all the controls here — I can do it on my own and don’t have to depend on other people.”
Her son’s smile prompted more tears from Michelle Straschnitzki.
“It’s been a long time and that was a genuine smile. Also, knowing Ryan can do what he wants now. He can live his life the way he needs to and he can come and go as he pleases, more or less.”
Father Tom said Ryan’s smile has only been this bright once before since the accident.
“The last time he lit up like that was last July when he first got back on the ice,” he said, referring to his son’s new sport of sledge hockey.
A lone hockey stick was propped up at the front door.
Neighbours turned out to welcome the family, and many sat in lawn chairs across the street before the beginning of what appeared to be a huge block party.
“It’s not going to end. I think it’s going to go until next Saturday probably,” said Michelle.