Nick Shumlanski’s life changed forever on April 6.
The Humboldt Broncos forward was on the team’s bus when it collided with a tractor-trailer at an intersection in rural Saskatchewan.
Sixteen people on the bus were killed and 13 players were injured.
There are things Shumlanski won’t speak publicly about, keeping those conversations for family and friends.
“It’s something that changes you forever. It’s definitely something that’s always going to be a part of me,” he said Friday. “It was one of the closest teams that I’ve ever played on. I hear a lot of the guys say that you have to kind of carry on their destiny and I feel like that’s something that I am doing as well. I still want to play hockey and do it for the boys as well.”
Shumlanski will get that opportunity in Charlottetown this fall.
The 21-year-old Tisdale, Sask., native has committed to the UPEI Panthers.
Playing university hockey, either in the United States or Canada, was always something Shumlanski had in his sights while playing junior A in Saskatchewan.
“I was really interested to go out east all winter,” he said.
Who – The latest announced recruit for the UPEI Panthers men’s hockey team.
Size, position – Five-foot-eight, 165-pound forward.
Junior career – Shumlanski played 3 ½ seasons with the Flin Flon Bombers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League before being traded Jan. 10 to the Humboldt Broncos.
GP G A Pts.
55 22 42 64
“It’s something that changes you forever. It’s definitely something that’s always going to be a part of me. It was one of the closest teams that I’ve ever played on. I hear a lot of the guys say that you have to kind of carry on their destiny and I feel like that’s something that I am doing as well. I still want to play hockey and do it for the boys as well.”
UPEI head coach Forbes MacPherson said: “He is . . . very quick, turns on a dime, he competes very hard, plays with sandpaper. He plays with an edge.”
Shumlanski said: “I’m a gritty player with some skill,” he said, noting he can play up and down the lineup, has good speed and vision.
Shumlanski met former NHLer and current Sportsnet hockey analyst Colby Armstrong in Saskatoon in April. They have spent time together and continue to talk. Armstrong contacted UPEI head coach Forbes MacPherson, saying he had a player in mind who might be a good fit for the Panthers.
MacPherson said Shumlanski has assets the team was looking for in its recruits this season, including speed, a high compete level and grit.
“We’re looking to try and get back to a style of play that we’ve had in previous years that I felt we got a little bit away from last year,” MacPherson said. “All of the characteristics of (Nick’s) game, fit the mould we’re looking for.”
MacPherson has recruited many players to UPEI during his tenure. Shumlanski is very similar to most in terms of athletics and academics.
“The fact is what is not similar is very significant,” MacPherson said.
“This is a tough subject to talk about,” he added. “I feel like Nick can help us as a hockey player and perhaps we can help him move on to the next chapter of his life.”
MacPherson said he and Shumlanski have had healthy, deep discussions about hard subjects through the recruitment process. He said there are supports available for the young man in Charlottetown, if he needs them.
“The people of P.E.I. are a group of caring people that I’m sure that will completely embrace Nick and support him,” MacPherson said, “and I feel like our university, our hockey program and his teammates will be the exact same.”
Shumlanski played 3 ½ seasons in Flin Flon, Sask., before being traded to Humboldt on Jan. 10, as the Broncos loaded up for a chance at a league championship.
Shumlanski said he chipped his lumbar during the crash. He was released from hospital 13 hours later.
He is looking forward to getting to Charlottetown in late August, exploring the Island and meeting new friends and teammates.
“It’s harder now to move so far from home because I am going to miss my family a lot and my friends,” he said. “It’s a big step in my life.”
Shumlanski said he’s been skating all summer, playing rec hockey weekly and doing skills a couple of times a week. He is also training four or five times a week since mid-May.
“I’m excited to play again,” he said. “It will be nice to get back on the ice for some real hockey.”