The Saskatoon Blades have announced the hiring of 18-year-old Xavier Labelle as a Hockey Operations Assistant.
Labelle is a surviving member of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and is continuing his rehabilitation here in his hometown of Saskatoon.
Following the accident, Xavier spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital recovering from his injuries which included a fractured skull and concussion, internal bleeding, approximately 20 broken bones (including 13 in his spine), plus nerve damage affecting his legs and left arm.
Labelle, who spent the last two seasons with the Humboldt Broncos, is familiar with the Blades organization having been on the team’s 50-man list and attending training camp in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
“I just started thinking about the boy and what we could do for him, and how we could help him,” explained Blades General Manager Colin Priestner. “His parents were kind enough to let me come see him in the hospital just to show him our support and I told him we wanted to make him a Blade.
“At that time, we weren’t exactly certain in what capacity, but as the summer went on and he started to progress we discussed the different opportunities, where his comfort level was, and it became quite clear he wanted to remain involved in the hockey operations.”
Labelle graduated from high school at Ecole Canadienne-Francaise in Saskatoon at the end of June, and joined the Blades hockey operations staff prior to training camp in August.
“Colin came to see me when I was still in the hospital and asked me if I would be interested in helping out the team for the upcoming season,” said Labelle. “Of course I jumped at the opportunity. I thought it would be great to remain involved in the game. I never really thought about coaching but being here around the staff and seeing what goes into this side of a team, it’s definitely peaked my interest.”
Currently Labelle is taking on the duties of 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 the Blades’ pre-game tribute to the Humboldt Broncos prior to the home opener on September 22nd at SaskTel Centre.