Calgary native Michael Bladon, who played for the KIJHL’s Nelson Leafs last season, has joined the Humboldt Broncos for their first season after a bus crash killed 16 players, staff and media in April. Photo submitted

In Humboldt, a former B.C. hockey player helps a community heal

Defenceman Michael Bladon has joined the Broncos after playing in Nelson last season

It happens on streets, in stores and restaurants. Someone approaches the teen wearing a Humboldt Broncos hoody and asks if he plays for the team.

Michael Bladon is new to Humboldt, Sask., but he’s quickly finding just how many people already know who he is or want to get to know him.

“You get a lot of attention. You get a lot of praise for doing what you’re doing and having to go what you’re going through,” said Bladon.

“The whole town has made themselves available to us if you need to talk, if you need to vent to anyone. There’s so many outlets you can go to and just knowing that the way the city is feeling is through this hockey team, so I think it’s remarkable what we’ve been able to accomplish and what the city has allowed us to do.”

What the city has allowed Bladon and the Broncos to do is help a community grieve and heal.

Bladon suited up for the Broncos’ first home-opener Wednesday after the April 6 crash that killed 16 and injured 13 others on the team’s bus. Their game against the Nipawin Hawks was nationally televised and featured a post-game ceremony at Elgar Petersen Arena that honoured the victims.

Bladon said the team did its best to focus on the game, but once the final buzzer sounded all the emotions were freed.

“That feeling on that ice and seeing those 3,000 people there, what they stood for and what they represented, just playing in front of them and their everlasting support. They were into the game, all game. This city lives and breathes hockey.”

The 18-year-old Calgary native had an offer last season to play for Humboldt but wanted to try playing hockey in B.C., where he did last season on the blue-line with the KIJHL’s Nelson Leafs.

The Broncos kept in touch with Bladon throughout the season. After the crash he attended the team’s spring camp, and even though he’d had offers from other teams Bladon already knew where he was going.

“One day I just decided if I let this opportunity pass I would regret it for the rest of my life.”

Last month he travelled to the Saskatchewan city of nearly 6,000 people for training camp, and about two weeks ago moved in with a billet family who had previously housed and lost a player who died in the bus crash.

But just by putting on the jersey and stepping onto the ice, Bladon is giving back to a city he felt compelled to help.

“I honestly think I was put on this team for a reason. Our coach [Nathan Oystrick] said it best. He said all the guys are on this team because they can handle it. It’s been a lot since we came here and last night was just the climax of that.

“Everything just kind of came rushing in at once and it hits you and you realize what is actually going on.”

Which, as he already knows, is about a lot more than hockey.

Related:

Humboldt Broncos emerge from tragedy

‘Too terrible to be true’: Zach Morey almost returned to the Humboldt Broncos



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Maple Ridge’s Tiller’s Folly kick off international music series in Surrey

Come Dancing Around the World takes place at the Surrey Arts Centre

Rescuers battle fog, wind, rain on stormy Maple Ridge mountain

Four hikers rescued Sunday in Golden Ears park

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Guilty plea in Lower Mainland break-and-enter spree

Gordon Vincent Gladstone, 42, was charged with 12 counts relating to a dozen incidents in late 2018

Vancouver police officer hit with bear spray mid-arrest

Officer had been trying to arrest a woman wanted province-wide

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Most Read