‘First day was tough’: Lethbridge Hurricanes GM says players hurt in campfire accident are improving

The general manager of the Lethbridge Hurricanes says three young hockey players are on their way to healing after a campfire accident northwest of Calgary this past weekend.

“Everybody rallies. You can really see the passion and care for the boys and their families. It extends right through,” Peter Anholt told reporters Tuesday afternoon in Lethbridge, Alta.

“It’s been amazing to see how it galvanizes the hockey community.”

Ryan Vandervlis, 20, Jordy Bellerive, 19, and Matt Alfaro, 21, were sent to hospital just before midnight on Friday after an accelerant  was added to a campfire at the Bearspaw home of another player and WHL alumnus, Tyler Wong.

“Anybody who has camped or started a fire with wet wood has used an accelerant,” Anholt said.

Although Bellerive and Alfaro received upper body burns, Anholt said they are expected to make a full recovery.

While Vandervlis remains in a medically induced coma, he has been taken off a dialysis machine for kidney issues.

“We want to be clear that alcohol was not a factor in this accident,” the Vandervlis family said in a statement released through the team Monday.

“He is receiving exceptional medical care in an intensive care unit in Calgary.”

Anholt has visited both Bellerive and Alfaro in hospital.

“The first day was tough,” the general manager said. “Their personalities have continued to come out. I was really pleased with what I saw.”

Cochrane RCMP have said alcohol was present at the event but does not appear to have contributed to the incident. The police investigation continues.

Anholt said the team has been approached with offers of financial support for Vandervlis, but the family wants to move slowly.

“They would like, and they’ve asked for our help, to give a little bit of a pause and take the emotion out of it,” Anholt said.

Some media outlets initially reported the gathering was a bachelor party, but Anholt said the Wong family doesn’t like that characterization.

“Tyler Wong is getting married and this happened before the wedding, so I guess you can say whatever you like,” he said.

Lethbridge Hurricanes general manager Peter Anholt said a fire incident at a Bearspaw home late Friday evening that sent players Ryan Vandervlis, 20, Jordy Bellerive, 19, and alumnus Matt Alfaro, 21, to hospital, on some level has brought the hockey community together. (Dave RaeéCBC)

“We are talking about … awesome kids, men. Good friends, and they were getting prepared to play some golf the next day and go camping. That is what it was.”

Including Wong, it was a group of 10.

Anholt said the team chaplain is available to help.

“Whatever anybody needs. Families, friends, or team, if anyone needs any help.”

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