The Saskatoon Blades, of the Western Hockey League, announced on Thursday that they have hired 18-year old Xavier Labelle as a Hockey Operations Assistant.

If that name sounds familiar, you have probably heard it many of times while following the tragedy of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Labelle is one of 13 people that survived the crash and is continuing his rehabilitation in his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Following the accident, Labelle spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Those injuries included a fractured skull and concussion, internal bleeding and approximately 20 broken bones which included 13 in his spine, plus nerve damage that continues to affect his legs and left arm.

Labelle and the Blades are familiar with each other, as the 18-year old attended training camp for the team in each of the years from 2014-2016.

He would graduate from high school at Ecole Canadienne-Francaise in Saskatoon at the end of June, he joined the Blades staff just prior to training camp in August with the team holding off making the announcement until the Broncos home opener had passed. Saskatoon’s general manager Colin Priestner had visited Labelle in the hospital to show the teenager his and the team’s support for his recovery which led him to thinking about what the WHL team could do for the young man. After discussions with Labelle and his parents, Priestner offered a position with the club to help Labelle stay connected with the sport he loves.

While there is no job description for what Labelle will be doing the entire season, he currently is assisting the coaching staff with coding and reviewing game footage. As the 2018-19 campaign progresses, he will be taking on more responsibilities within his comfort zone.

Labelle is not the only Bronco that has already landed a job on the hockey operations side of the sport. Jacob Wasserman, an 18-year old Humboldt native who was paralyzed from the waist down in the crash, has already moved into a new role as a goaltender scout with his former team, the Humboldt Broncos. Because Wasserman knew the game so well and the goaltenders coming up, the team asked him to take on the roll to assist the team in scouting at the camp and at the bantam level.

Some people may call this a public relations stunt to use the tragedy to their advantage, but it is further from the truth. When sports is pretty much all you have known since you are little and before you ever turn 20 years old your career is cut short you still want to be a part of it. For both young men they may not be back on the ice playing but they will be a part of the sport they love for a long time, just in a new position.