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

School District 8 swears in new board

Four new trustees join the Kootenay Lake board of education

Forestry workers set to begin job action in Kootenays

Operations in Castlegar, Cranbrook, Galloway, Elko, Radium, Golden may see job action this week.

Tigz Designs making Christmas merry for Swan Valley Lodge residents

Lori Cameron and her husband, Bill, expect to deliver 90 gift bags to Swan Valley Lodge residents.

Proportional Representation makes your vote count

We can lead the rest of the country with democratic reform.

Enhancing recreational opportunities on Basin Trails

This program is one of the ways the Trust is addressing its strategic priority to support recreation and physical activity in the region.

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact political environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Controversy erupts over Japanese flag in B.C. classroom

Online petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began

Trump says report on Khashoggi death expected in a few days

Jamal Khashoggi was a columnist for The Washington Post who was slain Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

CUPW requests mediator as deadline for Canada Post offer expires without deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in Saturday night with a last-minute plea to the two sides

Most Read