Red Deer’s Ryan Vandervlis, 20, has signed with the Red Deer Vipers of the Heritage Junior B Hockey League. (File photo)

Red Deer’s Ryan Vandervlis signs with Vipers

The hockey player is expected to join the lineup Jan. 5 against the Stettler Lightning

One of three hockey players injured in a campfire accident earlier this year has signed with the Red Deer Vipers.

Red Deer’s Ryan Vandervlis will join the Heritage Junior B Hockey Team in the new year, the Vipers announced on Twitter Thursday.

The 20-year-old centre and two friends, who are also hockey players, were injured in a campfire accident in June at a home near Cochrane – police said a substance was placed in a firepit causing an explosion.

Vandervlis, who played four season with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, was left with severe burns on nearly 60 per cent of his body and was initially placed in a medically-induced coma after the incident. After 11 weeks he was released from Foothills Hospital in Calgary, but continued daily out-patient rehabilitation for another four to six weeks.

Vipers coach JD Morrical said he’s excited to get Vandervlis into the lineup.

“Seeing a guy who’s been through some really tough times get another shot and play some hockey with his friends is a really good story.

“He’s going to bring a ton of leadership. He knows a good chunk of our players and they all really respect him,” Morrical said. “He has a lot commitment to detail and I think our guys will learn a lot from him.”

READ MORE: Red Deer’s Ryan Vandervlis discharged from Calgary hospital

Morrical said he expects it’ll take a bit of time until Vandervlis is back in game shape.

“The year before this year he had shoulder surgery so he only got about 20 games in. He hasn’t played a lot of hockey lately,” Morrical said, adding Vandervlis just had two ingrown toenails surgically removed.

Despite not playing in a game since last season, Vandervlis has been practising with the Lethbridge Hurricanes this season.

“I talked to their general manager and the only reason they didn’t take him is because he’s a 20-year-old – they can only have three 20-year-olds in the WHL. I think he was very close to making the team,” said Morrical.

The plan is to get Vandervlis into the lineup Jan. 5, when the Vipers host the Stettler Lightning.

“It’s nice to get a Red Deer guy back playing for the Red Deer team. It’s a nice boost for the community,” said Morrical.

More to come.

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