A member of last year Humboldt Broncos squad has a new job on a different side of the arena.
Xavier Labelle has been hired by the Saskatoon Blades, tasked with aiding the coaching staff with coding and reviewing game footage. The team said that as the season progresses, Labelle is expected to take on more duties depending on his comfort level.
Colin Priestner, the general manager of the Blades, said the Western Hockey League team’s gotten to known Labelle, as he was on their lists and was a local kid. The coach said he’ll never forget the feeling when he found out Labelle was alive.
“Instantly we started thinking about the boy and what we could do for him and how we could help him,” he said in a Blades media release.
So Priestner went into the hospital to pay Labelle a visit.
“Colin approached me in the hospital and he was asking if I wanted an opportunity to help out with the team this year and of course I jumped at the chance and thought it would be just great to stay involved in the sport,” Labelle said in a media release.
Priestner said Labelle has all kinds of skill sets, so finding a role for him wasn’t hard as there’s tons of things he can help the team with.
Labelle, who’s recovering from injures that include 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, will have to be around Saskatoon for physical rehab each week.
“We knew it was going to be a tough year for him, so anything we can do to make his year better was our goal,” Priestner said. “I think it’s going to go both ways because he’s going to make us better too. He already has been around our guys and our coaches.”
Labelle said most of his experience in hockey is being a player, but he’s finding the coaching aspect interesting. Priestner said Labelle’s been learning by observing the coaches.
Labelle is also the same age, 18, as some of the players on the Blades, something that could be an advantage he can use to connect with them.
“I know what they are going through, the work that is required to play at this level,” he said. “I feel a bit for them on that.”