Ryan Vandervlis’ lengthy recovery effort is underway after the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ centre awoke from his medically-induced coma and was greeted by a strong showing of support for his family.

The 20-year-old suffered severe injuries on June 15 at a gathering of several current and former Lethbridge Hurricanes’ players outside a home in Bearspaw.

RCMP suspect an accelerant was added to a fire pit resulting in the explosion that injured Vandervlis, Hurricanes’ captain Jordy Bellerive and Matt Alfaro of the University of Calgary Dinos.

Vandervlis suffered significant burns to the front of his body and was transported by ambulance to the Foothills Medical Centre in critical, life threatening condition. Bellerive and Alfaro were also admitted to the Foothills Medical Centre after sustaining burns to their upper bodies. Both players are expected to fully recover.

Lethbridge Hurricanes’ GM Peter Anholt says the player known to his teammates as Vandy faces a long road to recovery.

“(Vandy) has some challenges in front of him,” said Anholt. “We know he’s a fighter and now he’s come out of his coma which is really positive.”

“He’ll see what challenges he has in front of him and the fighter will really kick in.”

A GoFundMe campaign to support the Vandervlis family was created on June 24 with a target goal of $25,000. In its first day, the campaign has raised more than $40,000 to help cover the costs of the Red Deer family’s meals and living expenses during Ryan’s time in hospital. 

According to the campaign, Vandervlis remains heavily sedated and is expected to undergo numerous surgeries in the coming months.

With files from CTV Lethbridge