Former Humboldt Broncos assistant captain Kaleb Dahlgren has come to accept the reality that he will never be cleared to play competitive hockey again.
In his memoir Crossroads, which goes on sale Tuesday, he wrote it was a heartbreaking realization, but his life has taught him to accept the things he cannot change.
“Being told you can’t do something is always difficult, and for me, I’ve just taken it with great stride,” the 23-year-old said in an interview with Global News.
Dahlgren has recovered from nearly all of the injuries he suffered on April 6, 2018. He was among the 13 survivors of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team aboard a bus involved in a collision with a semi-truck. Sixteen people died.
The crash left Dahlgren with a fractured and punctured skull. His neck and back were broken, among other injuries.
He still lives with the lasting effects of a traumatic brain injury, and doesn’t remember the crash. He can walk and talk the same way he did before the tragedy, but an activity as simple as running could cause significant damage, one neurologist told him.
Still, doctors consider his recovery a miracle.
“I don’t like calling myself a miracle, to be honest. It’s hard for me to accept that I am a miracle,” Dahlgren said.
“Today, I’m feeling amazing,” he said.
Dahlgren signed a contract with publisher HarperCollins Canada in January 2020. Working with a ghostwriter, Dahlgren participated in weekly interviews lasting four hours. By December, the book was written.
At the same time, he was taking five university courses, a student-athlete with the York University Lions and volunteering with four organizations.
The book is dedicated to the 16 people who died as a result of the collision.
Delving into the trauma of his past was difficult, particularly portions of the book that describe the grim crash scene and chapter 16, which memorializes each of the deceased individually.
“It was also super cathartic, and as I got deeper into it, I was able to reflect on all the people that helped save my life — mentally, emotionally and physically,” Dahlgren said.
“Hopefully it comes through in the book, how grateful I am for some of the connections I’ve made in my life.”
He credited his parents specifically for helping articulate the days following the crash. The memoir also addresses his father’s diagnosis with a rare illness when the author was a teenager. Few people outside the family knew the severity of his ordeal.
Dahlgren also tells the story of his Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, and how it led him to create a mentorship program called Dahlgren’s Diabeauties.
“Looking back on it, I’m happy that I’m able to open up and talk about these situations,” Dahlgren said.
Some of the proceeds from the book sales will go to STARS Air Ambulance — one of the organizations Dahlgren’s said he’s thankful for.