'It felt good:' Injured Broncos player skates for first time since bus crash

SASKATOON — When Layne Matechuk came out of a month-long coma after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash he had to learn how to walk and talk again.

Matechuk, 18, hit another major milestone this week — he got back on the ice.

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"It felt good," he told The Canadian Press Wednesday.

Matechuk was one of 13 people injured in April when a transport truck and the bus carrying his junior hockey team collided at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan. The crash killed 16 people, including 10 of his teammates.

His father, Kevin, has posted an online video of his son skating while pushing a hockey net and another of him shooting a puck.

"Nine months was a long time for him to be off his skates," Kevin Matechuk said in an interview. "He really, really enjoyed it. He's got lots of work ahead, but it's coming."

Matechuk, who is from Colonsay, Sask., wore his Broncos jersey — No. 28 — in the video.

The team was on its way to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game against Nipawin when the crash happened.

"It was the worst day of our lives," recalled Kevin Matechuk. "We heard about the accident at 5:20 that day and we never found Layne until about 8:30 that night, or found out where he was, and found out he was still with us.

"It was life-changing and we feel blessed every day that he is with us."

Layne was flown to Saskatoon from the Nipawin hospital by air ambulance on the night of the crash.

"When we found him, we were told to go straight to Saskatoon because it was bad," he said. "So we rushed there and waited and waited."

Layne, who was in a coma for a month, suffered a brain injury, a broken jaw, cheek damage and broken ribs.

"He had to have surgery on his face but, because he was unstable with the brain injury, they couldn't do that for three weeks," said his dad. "He's got 11 plates and 80 screws in his face so quite a bit of hardware there."

There will still be another surgery on his jaw, but Matechuk said his son is on the road to recovery.

He was released from hospital in October, although the family is still living in Saskatoon so he can attend physiotherapy three days a week and speech therapy four times a week.

Matechuk said his son continues to improve every day — something that was uncertain after the crash.

"He had to learn everything all over again," he said. "He had to learn to walk all over again, everything.

"I remember I was on my hands and knees moving his feet one at a time and my wife was holding him up with his shoulders."

Matechuk said he, his wife Shelley and their daughter, Carley, have never stopped believing in Layne.

"We just believed very, very strongly that he was going to be back to normal the way he was," he said. "He will probably never play competitive hockey again but his determination and his strength is just showing us that, if we keep believing, it will happen."

He said they don't have to push Layne to get to his therapy sessions and they now hope to get him on the ice at least once a week.

"It's a lot of firsts again," he said. "We miss the rink, we miss watching him play hockey and just the hockey community, but now having him back on the ice fills a piece of that puzzle."

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton. Follow @cderworiz on Twitter.

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