For Kaleb Dahlgren, a journey to become better than he was before he was injured includes a stop at his old team’s home arena.
Dahlgren was a member of last year’s Humboldt Broncos squad and was on the team’s bus when it was hit by a semi-truck. Effects from the collision included fractured vertebrae, skull fractures and a brain injury.
He’s now a member of the York University Lions. They stopped at the Elgar Petersen Arena Sept. 21 as part of a tour to honour Mark Cross, an assistant coach who died in the April 6 collision.
“It’s been amazing,” he said, “The team has been very phenomenal and they’ve welcomed me into their life and their family. It’s another family that I’ve created and I’m very thankful to be there.”
“Kaleb is an amazing individual, so vibrant, loves life, very positive, a selfless individual,” said Russ Herrington, the Lions’ head coach. “He’s very much like Mark. He’s absolutely the individual we’re trying to recruit and bring into our program.”
Dahlgren began emailing the Lions last summer, even before he became a Bronco, Herrington told the Journal. Cross, a alumnus of York, became an assistant coach for the Broncos and gave the Lions regular updates – as well as a incredible reference in terms of his character.
“We had made the decision right near the end of the Broncos’ regular season to make an offer, but I don’t extend those offers while players are still playing,” Herrington said.
Then the playoffs ended in a much different way than expected.
“We still felt that we wanted to make that offer because we had made that decision that we wanted to bring Kaleb into our family before that.”
Dahlgren’s injuries prevent him from having contact while out on the ice, but he still practises, works out and travels with the team.
“He’s a member of the team for every aspect except for 60-plus minutes on Fridays and Saturdays when we play games and that will remain for as long as Kaleb wants to do that. He’s made a remarkable recovery thus far and hopefully,” Herrington said, “he can get to the point where he will get medically cleared and will be ready to play.”
While Dahlgren couldn’t play with the Lions while they were in Humboldt, he did practise with them, represented the team at the ceremonial face-off and made a presentation for his Diabeauties program, which features children affected by diabetes – something that Dahlgren also has.
Before the game started, Dahlgren said it meant everything to be back at the EPA.
“It’s awesome to be back in this rink and see the guys on the ice,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back on for warm-ups. I think it will be really cool to be back on that ice and skating around, having fun and enjoying it.”
The hockey player said the goal with the team this year is to be best motivator that they have this year.
“I may not be playing but I’m still an influence without playing.”
Dahlgren’s also set a personal goal for himself.
“My personal goal is to come back better than I was before,” he said. “That means doing extra physio, staying on the ice extra, not taking any contact this year. Next year I’m working my way up into the line-up.”
While he’s at York, Dahlgren is taking a business degree and will follow that up with an education degree.