STRASBOURG, Sask. — Mark Cross was a ferocious competitor when he played hockey, but the assistant coach for the Humboldt Broncos had a calming presence on his players, teammates and friends.
“Mark was an incredibly hard worker. He was extremely bright. He was one of the most caring kids you would ever meet,” said Broncos president Kevin Garinger, who has known Cross since he was a boy.
“You can’t say enough about Mark Cross as a person.”
Cross, who was 27, was one of 16 people who died on April 6 when the junior hockey team’s bus and a semi-truck collided at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.
His funeral — the last of many memorials in the last 10 days — is being held today at the recreation centre in his hometown of Strasbourg, Sask.
He grew up in Strasbourg, where his parents, Brad and Marilyn Cross, were teachers at the school and Garinger was the principal. Garinger’s sons were friends with Mark Cross.
Lucas Frison, who has known Cross since they were three years old, said Cross had many friends.
“He was really easy to get along with and had a great personality that made a lot of people laugh,” he said. “Mark had a calming presence on people, which really showed his leadership ability.
“He was a leader on the ice when he was a hockey player, a leader as a coach and a leader as a friend.”
Frison, who will give the eulogy at the funeral, said Cross was the best man at his wedding and helped calm his nerves.
“He helped give me the confidence I needed that day and everything worked out beautifully.”
Cross left Strasbourg in his teens to play for the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League before attending York University in Toronto.
He played as a forward on the York Lions men’s hockey team from 2011 until 2016 when he graduated with a degree in kinesiology and health science.
“Mark was an exceptional young man, an assistant captain during his time at York and the team MVP in his fifth and final season,” said Russ Herrington, who was one of Cross’s assistant coaches. “He was a ferocious competitor who had a vibrant approach to life.
“There was no one in the room who commanded more respect than Mark.”
Cross returned to Saskatchewan after university, with his longtime girlfriend Molly Schnell, and worked for a season as an assistant coach with a midget team near Regina.
He joined the Broncos for the 2017-18 season.
“In talking with the boys, they just had the utmost respect for Mark and cared for him,” said Garinger. “They just loved him as a coach. He was very knowledgeable.”
He said Darcy Haugan, head coach of the Broncos who was also killed in the crash, thought the world of Cross.
“The reason he was so good at his job was because he was such a great person,” said Garinger.
— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton
The Canadian Press