Broncos player joins hometown Saskatoon Blades as coaching assistant

One of the Humboldt Broncos hockey players injured in a bus crash that killed 16 people has joined his hometown Western Hockey League team as an assistant to the coaches.

Xavier Labelle will help with hockey operations, team says

Xavier LaBelle, who played with the Humboldt Broncos hockey team last season, will be the new hockey operations assistant for the Saskatoon Blades. (The Associated Press/John Locher)

One of the Humboldt Broncos hockey players injured in a bus crash that killed 16 people has joined his hometown Western Hockey League team as an assistant to the coaches.

The Saskatoon Blades say in a news release that Xavier LaBelle, 18, has joined the major junior team as a hockey operations assistant. 

LaBelle suffered a fractured skull, a concussion, internal bleeding and 20 broken bones on April 6 when a transport truck collided with the junior hockey team's bus in Saskatchewan.

LaBelle takes part in physiotherapy treatment at Saskatoon City Hospital during his recovery from the April 6 team bus crash. (Tanya LaBelle)

Ten of his teammates died, and he was one of 13 who were injured.

The team says LaBelle, who spent the past two seasons with the Broncos, had attended Blades training camp in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

He graduated from high school at the end of June and joined the Blades hockey operations staff prior to this year's training camp in August.

It was initially thought that LaBelle had died in the crash, but it turned out he had been mixed up with another player.

His family has said they hold no ill will about the error.

In the Blades' news release, LaBelle says he was approached by the team while he was still in hospital recovering from the crash.

"Of course, I jumped at the opportunity," he said. "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 piqued my interest."

The team says LaBelle will start by helping coaches review game footage, but he's expected to take on more responsibilities in future.

"I just started thinking about the boy and what we could do for him, and how we could help him," said Blades' general manager Colin Priestner.

"We discussed the different opportunities, where his comfort level was, and it became quite clear he wanted to remain involved in the hockey operations."

The team says LaBelle will also have a role in the Blades' pre-game tribute to the Broncos in their home opener on Sept. 22.