The latest update we got today from our friends at Global News is that the Fort McMurray wildfire has now grown to 423,000 hectares. It’s been about 2 weeks since the entire city was evacuated and there has been an outpouring of support from stars like Tim McGraw, Dallas Smith, Gord Bamford, Paul Brandt, Shaq and the list keeps growing. Today, Fort McMurray native and current NHL hockey player Scottie Upshall penned an emotional letter. Upshall will be in the lineup tomorrow for the St. Louis Blues as they battle the San Jose Sharks but his head and heart are with his hometown. “Don’t count out my town. To the firefighters and police officers who bravely stood in the face of unimaginable danger to lead people to safety: Thank you. To the hundreds of people who have reached out to me personally to offer help: Thank you.”
Upshall was actually getting ready for game 3 of the Blues previous playoff series when he first found out his entire hometown was being evacuated. ” I looked up into the crowd and saw my brother, Brent, tapping away on his phone. I could tell from his face that it was bad. This was right before Game 3 of our playoff series against Dallas. The series was tied 1–1. It was moments before one of the biggest games of my career, but all I could think about was the smoke and the fire.
I took a few shots and then looked up into the stands again. Brent had his head down. His face said it all. When it’s your brother, you just know.
Our hometown of Fort McMurray, Alberta, was being engulfed by a wildfire. Brent and his fiancée, Shannon, had flown in from Fort McMurray to see me play. Their daughters, Avery, Emma and Grace, were back there, 2,000 miles away, staying with our mother.”
Upshall goes on to talk about realizing the severity of the situation “Then I started scrolling through Twitter and I saw photos of Fort McMurray. The big pine trees were on fire. The same pine trees we used to ride our mountain bikes through to go play street hockey every day in the summer. Not just a little fire — but like something out of a movie about the end of the world. Imagine the woods or the streets you ran through as a child. Now imagine them engulfed in flames. I was numb. I immediately called my dad, who just so happened to be in Vancouver for work that day. He told me that everyone back in Fort McMurray was getting evacuated. I hung up and … well, I just freaked out. I knew my mom was there alone with the girls.”
Reading his entire article brought tears to my eyes. Not only does he share an incredible story about how the community came together to help him achieve on of his greatest junior hockey achievements, but Upshall has some powerful things to tell us about where he grew up.
“I want people to know what Fort McMurray is all about. When I read news stories about my hometown, I see the word boomtown a lot. I read about the economic ups and downs, and about the people who just go there to make money in the oil fields. It paints a picture of a place that’s all about big business. But it’s not. It’s a real community that desperately needs help rebuilding.
The heart of Fort McMurray is the hardworking people who have been there since the beginning. When you read the words Fort McMurray, I don’t want you to think of oil, I want you to think of real people, like Ms. Jomass. She was the woman who worked the concession stand at Beacon Hill Arena when I was growing up.”