Xavier Labelle is staying in hockey after surviving the devastating Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
The 18-year-old was introduced as the new assistant of hockey operations for the Saskatoon Blades Thursday.
“Finding a role for him wasn’t the hard part,” said Blades General Manager Colin Priestner. “There’s tons of things he can help us with.”
Labelle is among the 13 members of the team who survived the April crash which killed 16 people. He spent weeks in hospital recovering from a fractured skull, internal bleeding and roughly 20 broken bones.
Following the crash, Preistner began talking with Labelle’s family about Xavier joining the organization.
“It became very clear that talking to his parents that, like, he really wants to be involved in hockey. That’s where his heart is,” Priestner said.
Labelle, who spent the last two seasons with the Humboldt Broncos, comes to the Blades after having attended training camps in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
He joined the team in August after graduating high school in Saskatoon.
Labelle is still dealing with the physical effects of the crash that left him with nerve damage to his legs and left arm.
Priestner said staying in Saskatoon allows him to continue with his rehabilitation.
“We knew it was going to be a tough year for him. Anything we could do to make his year better was our goal.”
Currently, Labelle is assisting the Blades coaching staff with coding and reviewing game footage. As the season progresses, Xavier is expected to take on more responsibilities within his own comfort level.
Labelle will also have a role in a tribute to the Broncos prior to the home opener on September 22nd at SaskTel Centre.