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July 20, 2018
Twenty years ago, fifteen teams from three provinces were setting their sights on a national championship. The lone team from Saskatchewan, the Briercrest Bible College Clippers of Caronport, recruited a 22 year old from Peace River, Alberta who would become the team's leading scorer and point getter in their ACAC era.
Darcy Haugen joined the Clippers for the 1998-99 campaign after a season with the Northern Michigan University Wildcats of the NCAA. In two seasons with Briercrest, the forward set team marks for career regular season goals (53) and career regular season points (86). As a rookie, his 27 goals and 46 points in the regular season were also team records earning him a second team all conference selection. He was the first Clipper hockey player to be an ACAC all conference selection.
For Haugen, the ACAC was not an exit league. After a pro career in Sweden was cut short by a back injury, he returned to the team where he concluded his junior hockey playing days -- the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL -- as an assistant coach in 2001. He was with the Bruins for two seasons where he was named co-interim head coach during the 2002-03 season.
Haugen would then become a head coach in junior hockey without interim in the title. He guided the North Peace Navigators of the NWJHL to five league championships and four medals at provincials in 12 seasons. In 2015, Haugen assumed the dual role of head coach and general manager with the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL. The 2015 Hockey Alberta Meritorious Award Recipient was one of 16 who did not survive the April 6, 2018 crash en route to Nipawin for a semi final playoff game.
A month ago today, Haugen was posthumously honoured as the inaugural recipient of the NHL's Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award which recognizes one who champions local efforts. No other CCAA hockey player has been honoured with an NHL award.