Over a recent two-game span, Isaac LaBelle only had to look into the stands to realize just how lucky he is to play junior hockey.
LaBelle’s younger brother, Xavier, was in attendance, cheering on Isaac who plays goal for Waywayseecappo Wolverines. Xavier LaBelle was a member of the Humboldt Broncos, when last April their bus collided with a semi-trailer unit. A total of 16 members of the Bronco organization were killed and the hockey world would never be the same.
“I really means a lot to me to be able to play hockey this season,” said Isaac LaBelle, 20. “As a family we are so lucky. It was a horrible tragedy which we’ll never forget. He (Xavier) came to watch me play. It really meant a lot to me that he was able to come and watch.”
Xavier LaBelle suffered serious injuries, breaking a total of 20 bones, sustaining serious nerve damage and now having to deal with the emotional trauma of the crash. While he’s no longer able to play, he was recently named a hockey operations assistant with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades.
By his own admission, Isaac LaBelle is highly motivated this hockey season on a number of levels.
“Our team is playing well and having success,” Isaac said. “It’s been fun coming to the rink. Last year was tough for a lot of guys but we never gave up. When (GM/Head Coach) Taylor Harnett came on, we knew we were going in the right direction.”
The Humboldt bus crash hit home closely for Isaac, who played about one month last year with Humboldt and naturally made a number of friends. After the crash, his brother was wrongly declared deceased in a situation of mis-identification. It was soon reported that Xavier LaBelle had survived, but his teammate and friend Parker Tobin has been fatally injured.
The LaBelle family was understandably relieved, but devastated with the news of so many deaths and injuries.
Isaac was obtained by Wayway from Dryden last December. As of this writing, he’s played 15 games and has backstopped the Wolverines to a 9-7-1 record in 17 games. Last year, the club won only eight games in 60 games.
“I’ve really enjoyed our season so far,” said Isaac. “It’s definitely enjoyable. Like most goaltenders I like getting in a lot of games. For the guys who were here last year, we’re definitely enjoying the success so far. While we didn’t win a lot of games last year, we really got close as a group."
“We knew things would look up for us. It’s been a lot of fun this year.”
Meanwhile, Isaac LaBelle couldn’t be happier where he is in life: on the ice, playing hockey with his brother close by.