It’s the fate of a broadcaster to have your voice immortalized. For Tyler Bieber, this remains heartbreakingly true.
The 29-year-old was in his first year as the voice of the Humboldt Broncos. As a play-by-play announcer he travelled with the team. He and 28 others were on a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team bus on April 6, headed for a Nipawin, Sask. playoff game, when the bus collided with a tractor-trailer. Bieber is among the 16 who died.
Steven Wilson works as a reporter in Weyburn, Sask. for the same radio company that Bieber did, and filled in calling Broncos games four times this year. The two knew each other well, meeting after games to interview each other and collaborating on news coverage.
“Unfortunately, there’s no manuals for how to cover the death of a colleague, especially in such a tragic fashion,” Wilson said.
As a radio personality in Humboldt since Bolt FM was founded in 2015, Bieber is featured in well over a dozen archived videos on the radio station’s YouTube channel. They show Bieber at his finest: interacting with community members while covering graduation ceremonies, doing giveaways for the station and, more frequently, doing silly videos with coworkers that showcase his mischievous nature.
Bieber, in a video series from 2015 called “weird food Wednesdays,” makes strange food and drink concoctions for him and former colleague Andy Cohen to consume on camera. His unassuming nature makes the videos all the more hilarious.
“It was one of those senses of humour that just comes out of nowhere. You’ll sit in a room for five minutes, in conversation, and he just knows when to strike with that one-two punch,” he said.
While the videos capture one side of Bieber, there are far more elements that made him well-loved beyond his hometown of Humboldt. He wrote for cfl.ca in 2011, according to 3DownNation, and was known both in Canada and the United States for his football commentary on his own website CFLdaily.ca, which is now defunct — an affiliate page is still active.
His career reflects a pure pursuit of any and all sports.
To Bieber, “it was just a blessing to be paid to be able to talk sports I think in his life, because he would have been doing it anyways,” said Ridley Scouting’s Kent Ridley, a Tennessee man who first connected with Bieber online years ago.
Bieber chased sports as a volunteer coach for high school football and basketball teams in Humboldt, as well as girls flag football. He chased sports as he started one of the CFL’s first-ever social media update accounts, @CFLdaily on Twitter, and continued doing it as a football scout with Ridley Scouting.
Bieber was not the kind of guy who got into the field to feed his ego, Ridley said.
“It was a lot more of finding a way to kind of fulfill a passion in him than yeah, there was no ‘look at me’ aspects to his life at all,” he said.
Ridley said Bieber flew under the radar for far too long, and it’s sad to see him get the attention he deserves only under such tragic circumstances.
As a tribute to his work, fellow broadcasters and fans are leaving out mics and headsets for Bieber, as others have left hockey sticks out for the hockey players that lost their lives: “They might need it,” as one Twitter user explained.
Love the trend of putting out sticks for the boys from Humboldt. I did my own variation for broadcaster Tyler Bieber. I trust it's acceptable. @BrianMunzTSN @RonMacLeanHTH #SticksOutforHumboldt #putyoursticksout pic.twitter.com/XUXJ11F4U7
— George Scott (@CatsMicGuy) April 9, 2018
— NORTH 🇨🇦 (@DavidNorthFilms) April 10, 2018
— Gord Miller 🌻 (@GMillerTSN) April 10, 2018
— Steve Clark (@SteveClarkMedia) April 12, 2018
I’ve been beyond fortunate to announce at hockey games for the past 26 years. I placed a microphone on the porch tonight for Tyler. It’s there if you need it. #bieber #HumboldtBroncos #PrayersforHumboldtBroncos #HumboldtStrong #SJHL #boltfm #hockey @BrianMunzTSN 📻🏒🎙🏈 pic.twitter.com/iKZWPmYGga
— Kurt Ardron (@ardronkurt1975) April 9, 2018
The radio station is not commenting, but an announcer at the station said a tribute may come out after Bieber’s funeral, held Thursday at the arena where the Broncos played.
Chelsea Laskowski is a Saskatchewan-based freelance journalist who focuses on northern Saskatchewan and Indigenous people. She has written and worked in radio for The Globe and Mail, Eagle Feather News, Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation, paNOW, News Talk 980 CJME, and Treaty 4 News. She can be found on Twitter at @chelsealaskowsk.