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

Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries School’s got talent

Talent show to be held Feb. 21 at Brilliant Cultural Centre

What’s Up: Things to see and do on Family Day

There’s plenty of fun to be had across the West Kootenay this coming long weekend!

Province announces $23 million for upgrades at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital

West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital District Board has yet to review the provincial proposal

Selkirk College Saints score pair of crucial wins

Stellar goaltending and timely goals lead to victory over the Vancouver Island University Mariners.

UPDATE: Two-car accident closes Highway 3A at Thrums

Road expected to open for single-lane alternating traffic at 2 p.m.

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

It’s not yet clear when the leak was detected

Pavelski’s 31st goal helps Sharks top Canucks 3-2

Vancouver one point out of second NHL wild-card spot

Cadets converge in Castlegar for sports weekend

East Meets West Sports and Fitness weekend for Air Cadets was held recently at Selkirk College.

OPINION: Faith Foundations columnist Pastor Tom Kline looks at real love.

Faith Foundations columnist Pastor Tom Kline looks at real love.

East Kootenay illicit drug overdose deaths lowest in B.C.

Local expert credits harm reduction efforts; declares support for legalization of opioids

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Most Read