They were built with the RBC Cup in mind, and wired to win their way there.
And now they have.
The Humboldt Broncos have been under pressure, right from the beginning of the year, to not only play in and win the RBC Cup at home in Humboldt, but to get to the tournament through the front door.
Assembly of the team began at training camp in August 2011, when hopeful rookies took to the ice with veterans the Broncos acquired through trades the previous season.
“We’re at a good starting point for the year, for sure,” said head coach and general manager Dean Brockman at the time.
They had some specific holes to fill, but they were also looking for players who would push their veterans and contribute to scoring – something the Broncos lacked in the 2010-11 season.
What Brockman and assistant coaches Tim Klimosko and Murray Brookbank also stressed, right from the beginning of the season, was a team-first attitude, something that has become a hallmark of successful Broncos teams in the past few years.
And it worked – though it took a while for the team to gel.
The Broncos were a bit inconsistent for the first few months of the regular season, before things changed.
Perhaps it was the players who had joined the Broncos’ ranks through trades, or maybe it was that the team was growing closer. Whatever the reason, things started to click better on the ice.
On November 30, the Broncos started a winning streak that would take nearly two months and 18 games to end.
In December, the Broncos lost starting goalie Deven Dubyk to the Western Hockey League. But, with the strong play of veteran goaltender Matt Hrynkiw and the addition of Colin Dzijacky between the pipes, the team continued to win.
“I think we’ve found ... the chemistry between the lines,” said Brockman before Christmas.
A different line stepped up each game, showing the depth of the team.It’s hard to beat a team that rolls four strong lines, and the Broncos proved that.
Part of their success, Brockman felt, was due to the chemistry among the players, as not only did they work together on the ice, they bonded quickly off it.
“They’re playing for each other,” Brockman said at the end of the regular season. “They care.”
The Broncos earned the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s regular season championship, which gave Brockman and the Broncos even more determination to win their way to the RBC Cup.
“I think ... we feel it’s our responsibility to carry the momentum of the tournament,” he said at the time. “The longer we play, the more momentum is created.”
He wanted, more than anything, for his team to get there the right way.
“You want to go through it all, and (you want) your players to experience what it is to win playoffs, to be so tired you can’t move.,” he said heading into playoffs. “That’s really what it’s all about. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. You want to earn what you get.”
The Broncos swept the La Ronge Ice Wolves in the first round of playoffs, then beat the Battlefords North Stars in six games to advance to the league final.
They met the Weyburn Red Wings for the SJHL championship, claiming the Canalta Cup in six games for their fourth league title in six years.
That sent the Broncos to the ANAVET Cup final, where they faced off against the Portage Terriers.
The Broncos were determined to win, even though both teams would go through to the national championship – the Broncos as hosts, and the Terriers representing the West Region.
Not winning the ANAVET, according to Brockman, was still going to the RBC Cup through the back door.
Humboldt won the first two games of the series at Elgar Petersen Arena, and looked to be on the verge of a sweep, but the Terriers seemed to get new legs once the series shifted to Manitoba.
Portage won Game 4 and Game 5, forcing a Game 6 back in Humboldt.
After a triple overtime nail-biter that resulted in another Portage win, the series went to Game 7.
Facing the prospects of a monumental collapse, the Broncos won 4-0 for their third ANAVET Cup since 2008.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Brockman after they game. “They bounced back and played the best game of the series.”
“We wanted it more,” said team captain Taylor Johnson of how his team pulled off the win.
With that, the Broncoshave made it to the RBC Cup through the front door – just like they planned.