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Sheyenne hockey team delivers flowers to Red River player who lost his mother to cancer

The West Fargo Sheyenne bus outside of Tanner Bernhardson's house. Submitted photo1 / 2
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Grand Forks Red River junior defenseman Tanner Bernhardson was preparing for his game against West Fargo Sheyenne on Thursday afternoon.

Bernhardson was ready to play with a heavy heart.

His mother, Pam, died Monday after a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer.

But while sitting at home Thursday afternoon, he got quite the surprise.

The West Fargo Sheyenne team bus pulled up at his house at about 4:30 p.m. Bernhardson’s opponents for that night filed out of the bus carrying flowers and brought them to Tanner at the front door, offering condolences.

“Pretty incredible,” Tanner’s father, Duane, said. “We knew our hockey community was pretty strong. We met a lot of friends. We’ve been involved with hockey not only in Grand Forks but across the state. It’s something we’ve enjoyed because of the people and stuff like this.

“It’s a surprise, but it’s not, you know?”

Duane was in the garage when the Mustangs showed up, and he didn’t even know what had happened until Tanner came and told him.

Tanner said the first two people he recognized walking up to the front door were Sheyenne head coach David Benson and junior defenseman Blaze Ackerland.

“When you look at being part of a team, you don’t realize how big that team is,” Duane said. “It means a lot.”

That wasn’t the only surprise they had Thursday.

While the Bernhardsons were at the rink watching Red River’s 8-0 win over West Fargo Sheyenne, a number of hockey moms that knew the Bernhardsons from their youth hockey days went to their house, cleaned it from top-to-bottom and made sure they were stocked up on everything for the next month.

When the family returned home at 9:30 p.m., they were blown away.

“The hockey community is the gift that keeps on giving,” Duane said.

Benson said there wasn’t much discussion among his staff or the team about the delivery.

“I think it’s just something you do,” Benson said. “It’s a good family. I’m a little hesitant to even talk to anybody about it. It’s not about us. It’s about the family.”

On Tuesday, a day after Pam’s death, Tanner played against East Grand Forks Senior High. Purpur Arena officials held a period of silence in her honor before the game.

Pam’s visitation is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday with an 8 p.m. prayer service at Amundson Funeral Home in Grand Forks. Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Sharon Lutheran Church.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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