DENVER (CBS4) – On April 6, 2018, Graysen Cameron fractured his L4 vertebrae in the catastrophic collision between the Humboldt Broncos team bus and a semi truck on a Saskatchewan highway. Doctors said Cameron would never play hockey again. But this weekend, Cameron flew to Colorado to play in the Dawg Nation Bowl and made a triumphant return to the rink.
“It never really crossed my mind. I had accepted that I was going to take a different path,” Cameron said. “But when I got the call that playing again was a possibility, I was excited. I’m right where I want to be. It’s great.”
Last year, Cameron attended the Dawg Nation’s annual charity tournament in Colorado but he was unable to play. He served as coach alongside former Colorado Avalanche star Paul Stastny, who currently plays for the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
“I think back now and I can’t believe Graysen really came out last year. To see him now, he looks healthy, he looks happy, and I can’t wait to watch him play,” executive director of Dawg Nation Marty Richardson said.
Cameron’s first game back was nothing short of remarkable. The 20-year-old shared the ice with current and former NHL players like Statsny, Jan Hejda and John Mitchell, to name a few.
“It’s going to be a crazy experience. Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Cameron said before the game’s start.
Cameron didn’t just keep up with hockey’s elite, he put on a show in his Top Dawgs sweater. When he found the back of the net, the crowd erupted and gave Graysen a long standing ovation.
“I kind of blacked-out out there. I just tried to take it in as best as I could. The place kind of erupted, everyone was cheering for me. It was …”
“It was a pretty goal too! It wasn’t sloppy. He’s an inspiration to all of us,” Statsny said.
Perhaps the only thing better than finding the back of the net was the chance to share the moment with his father
“Getting back to the bench and seeing my dad crying, that doesn’t happen often, so I just tried to take it in as best as I could,” Graysen said.
“It was pretty surreal. And it was a great goal. I don’t know what to say about it, it’s just awesome,” Graysen’s father, Tyler, said.
“I knew he had it in him. He’s the strongest kid I know. I’m really just a proud, proud dad. I knew he could do it.”
Not only did Graysen score, his close friend Ryan Vandervils did as well. Vandervils survived a devastating burn accident that burned over 50% of his body. After being written off by many, Vandervils has made an equally remarkable comeback, and bit by bit he’s inching his way back onto the NHL radar.
“For Graysen and I, we’ve both been through a tough batch of life, but to have Marty think of us for this event, it means the world,” Vandervils said. “We just want to have our lives back and play hockey again.”
“I honestly can’t put it into words. I’ve worked really hard over the last year. It’s been a very long road, and now I’m just trying to enjoy it. I know now it’s all worth the hard work and the ups and downs. I know I can work my way back to playing full-time. This is just a stepping stone,” Graysen said.