Sports are important to a lot of people, especially in southern Alberta.
But the community is often faced with reminders that matters of life go far beyond the fields or arenas offered by sports.
The year 2018 isn’t even halfway done yet and already it will go down as an awful year for the local hockey community.
In March, the Coaldale Copperheads community, family and friends were left shaken by the passing of Morgan Simpson — a 19-year-old who died after being involved in a serious single vehicle accident days before.
In April, the passing of locals players Logan Boulet — the 21-year-old who was one of 16 people who died after a transport truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided at a rural Saskatchewan intersection — and Brock Hirsche — the 26-year-old former captain of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns who passed away after a battle with cancer — left families, friends and fans mourning.
Now, after an incident and accident earlier this month, two current members of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and one alumnus are in a Calgary hospital.
Forward Ryan Vandervlis was showing “signs of progress” Tuesday, said Hurricanes’ GM Peter Anholt, but remains in critical condition in a medically-induced coma, while captain Jordy Bellerive and former player Matt Alfaro are in stable condition.
The three were hurt while starting a campfire Friday night, near Cochrane at the family home of former Canes’ star Tyler Wong.
A statement from the Vandervlis family says: “He is receiving exceptional medical care in an intensive-care unit in Calgary where he remains in critical condition. We are grateful and overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we have received and pray that Ryan will make a full recovery.”
The incident is a stark reminder that life is precious and can change dramatically in mere moments and without warning.
Any rumours or social media speculation is just that. This is now about someone fighting for his life.
Vandervlis is also well known for being mature beyond his age and for his involvement in the community. He is already a fine example of someone who extends his reach beyond the arena.
Much like Hirsche, Boulet and Simpson did.
Prior to his death, Hirsche set up a scholarship fund in his name which to date has raised more than $30,000. The Brock Hirsche Pronghorn Hockey Award will annually support a Pronghorn men’s hockey player who exemplifies everything Hirsche stood for as a leader on his team and in his community, and as a promoter of men’s health issues.
Boulet was kept on life support while matches were found for his organs, and he was able to save six other lives. Boulet’s organ donation has also led to a national surge in people signing their donor cards. His parents, Bernie and Toby, unveiled a monument in Lethbridge on Monday to help honour his memory.
We wish all the best to the injured Lethbridge Hurricanes players in their recoveries.
Our thoughts are with the Vandervlis, Bellerive and Alfaro families, the Hurricanes organization, and continue to be with the Boulet and Hirsche families as well.