On Monday, Kamloops Blazers goalie Rayce Ramsay is heading back to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
With Dylan Garand returning from the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, there isn't any space for the Saskatoon native on the roster, even after showing well in half a game of action on Friday. But going back to Junior A isn't a letdown; not when the team he's rejoining is at the very top of their game.
Yes, this week Ramsay will be returning to help in the crease for the league-leading Humboldt Broncos.
"It's a pretty big honour to be playing for the Humboldt Broncos this year," says Ramsay. "It's still just another hockey team though, we try not to bring it up a whole lot but it's always kind of there. You know what happened, you're always playing for those guys last year. But it's still just another team, we play to win just like anyone else."
Seven months after the devastating bus crash that killed 16 people, including players, coaches and radio broadcasters of the Broncos, the small community of Humboldt is still recovering. It may never fully heal, considering how connected the town of less than 6,000 people is.
Like with the billet family Ramsay is staying with. Last year, they housed Evan Thomas, one of the victims of the accident. Even without realizing it, he'll still come up in conversation.
"My billet mom will often think of stories, just like anyone else would, that just happen to have Evan in them," says Ramsay. "Obviously, I know it affected them a lot but they're trying to move on too."
What's helping the community transition is how good Humboldt looks on the ice. The Broncos have managed to recapture the success of the past and with a record of 15-6-2, they once again resemble the franchise that has won the SJHL a league-best 10 times.
After dropping their first two games, including the nationally televised home opener, Humboldt went on a six-game win streak and hasn't looked back.
"I think winning always helps with anything," says Ramsay. "Everyone would much rather win than lose but it's a very loyal community. I know that Humboldt would have our back even if we were 0-20. Winning helps but it’s a really good community."
Ramsay, who was drafted by the Broncos in 2016, joined up with the team for his first season back in mid-September following Blazers camp. For his part, he's started in six games, posting a 4-2 record, a 3.03 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He says the Broncos aren't doing anything special to win all these games, they're just a good group of guys who are playing well together.
For him personally, he's just been trying to focus on little parts of his game while enjoying the opportunity to play hockey every day.
"(My coaches) talk a lot here about having good habits, we talk a lot about having a good head trajectory and having your head on the puck, so I'm just working on these habits all the time. I can always get better so that's what I'm doing," he says.
Regardless of whether it’s here in Kamloops or back in Saskatchewan, he says he's surrounded by great teammates, staff and supporters, and he's fortunate to be a part of both these teams.
And as he returns to a Broncos team currently on a three-game win streak, he wasn't about to look ahead and start talking playoffs or championships. Much like the rest of the Humboldt community, he's taking it one day at a time.
"What happened is something that no one is ever going to forget about and it’s never going to go away, but you just go out there every day and play for the love of the game."