DETROIT - There are few things as chilling in sports as watching an athlete collapse to the ground.
On Monday night, the league was shaken by the news that Dallas center Rich Peverley collapsed on the Stars bench to due a cardiac episode. Peverley had a history of heart problems, and had undergone a procedure in September to correct an irregular heartbeat. He had missed a game just last week in Columbus due to the issue, and wore a heart monitor for every game and practice
The center was carried toward the Stars’ tunnel and eventually taken to the hospital, where it was confirmed that he was conscious and doing well. After being revived, Peverley even asked the attending physician how much time was left in the period so he could return to the game.
“It’s a scary incident, obviously,” center Dave Legwand said. “I think everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with Rich and his family. I was actually on the ice in Detroit when it happened to Jiri Fischer; same situation, scary moment. Obviously everyone is hoping for the best.”
It was impossible for the members of Detroit’s dressing room not to be reminded of a similar incident that occurred on their bench nearly nine years ago when defenseman Jiri Fischer went into cardiac arrest.
“You kind of get that sick feeling in your stomach again,” forward Johan Franzen said. “You know what the players are going through. Their thoughts are obviously with their teammate.”
On Nov. 21, 2005, Fischer collapsed on the Wings’ bench after finishing a shift against the Nashville Predators. Team doctor Tony Colucci, who had first alerted Fischer about the harmful possibilities of the defenseman’s heart abnormality when it was discovered in 2002, shocked Fischer’s heart back to life with an automated external defibrillator.
The episode would eventually mark the end of Fischer’s professional career.
“I was sitting 10 guys down so I didn’t really know right away what was going on,” said forward Johan Franzen, who was sitting on the bench when Fischer collapsed. “Everyone was panicking and doctors were flying down from the stands. It was really scary. It’s awful, hate to see anyone go through it, makes you sick to your stomach.”
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who was in Detroit’s locker room recovering from a torn ACL at the time of Fischer’s collapse, remembers hearing the yells and screams coming from the ice that night.
“You get the chills just thinking about it, thinking about what could have happened,” Kronwall said.
Kronwall’s thoughts were echoed by many across the league, including Wings coach Mike Babcock.
“Can you imagine if you were at a place where … if you’re at a minor hockey rink and no one knows how to use that defibrillator machine, what happens to the kid? So it’s sad,” Babcock said.
“Obviously there’s some heart things that are going on in athletes. I’m not a medical doctor, I know nothing about it but it was scary stuff last night.”
Just as Detroit’s game against Nashville was postponed in 2005, the matchup between Dallas and Columbus was postponed after Peverley’s collapse at 6:23 of the first period. For many, it wasn’t only the right call, it was the only call.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Kronwall said. “Just from our experience, I wouldn’t want to play because all you’re thinking about is your friend and how he’s doing. It’s a tough situation for everyone involved.”
Legwand, who was on the ice for the Predators at the time of Fischer’s collapse, couldn’t agree more.
“You can’t (play),” Legwand said. “We were playing against him. The Detroit guys saw it differently than we saw it. You can’t play when one of 40 people playing in the game goes down like that. That needs to be dealt with at the moment. The game can take a back seat.”
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