Dallas fans who attended a hockey game that was postponed less than six and a half minutes into the first period still felt a pang of joy Monday night.
As fans departed American Airlines Center near downtown Dallas after the Blue Jackets-Stars game was postponed Monday night, their hearts had gone from heavy to thankful after learning that Rich Peverley was in stable condition. The Stars’ center had collapsed at the Dallas bench and had to be carried to locker room, and thankfully regained consciousness before being transported to a local hospital.
The surreal scenario began when the 31-year old Peverley, who has a history of heart issues, returned to the Dallas bench after completing his shift. As Peverley went limp on the bench – which few fans nor the Stars broadcasting team of Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh had seen or were aware of since Dallas had continued a rush into the Columbus zone – Stars players on their bench erupted by emphatically banging their sticks on the sideboards and throwing equipment onto the ice in an effort to get the attention of the referees to stop the game.
After a Stars’ centering pass near the Columbus goal crease caromed into the boards, a referee’s whistle blew and members of both teams congregated near the walkway between the two benches leading to the Stars’ locker room. A flurry of activity at the walkway, where Peverley had been moved from the Stars’ bench, resulted as several Stars’ staff members literally lifted his body and quickly carried him through the double doors and to the locker room.
Several fans reported that forward Vernon Fiddler had crossed himself during the confusion and that other Stars’ players were visibly emotional.
An eerie silence pervaded the nearly filled American Airline Center for what seemed like an eternity, with small groups of players talking amongst themselves. At one point, Columbus general manager John Davidson beckoned his team to leave the ice, with the Stars following along the same walkway in a corner of the rink in the Columbus zone.
Finally, the public address announcer informed the fans that numerous prayers throughout the building had been answered. Peverley had regained consciousness and was transported to nearby University of Texas Southwestern St. Paul University Hospital (his wife, Nathalie, rode with him in the ambulance).
“We successfully treated him for a cardiac event with standard therapy,” said Dr. Gil Salazar of University of Texas Southwestern Emergency Medicine. “We provide oxygen for him. We started an IV. We did chest compressions on him and defibrillated him, provided some electricity to bring a rhythm back to his heart, and that was successful with one attempt, which is very reassuring.
“As soon as we treated him he regained consciousness,” Dr. Salazar added. “He was alert and talking to us after the event and quickly got transported to the hospital. I was actually able to talk to him in the back of the ambulance; he was able to tell me where he was and wanted to get back into the game.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he was scared, and that his first emotion “was we need somebody here real quick. When (Peverley) dropped, it was red alert, don’t worry about the game, don’t worry about anything else, just turn around and scream for a doctor. It was just let’s get him the help he needs and they came and got him the help. For me, it was something I don’t want to witness again. And I know we play a game (in which) there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of passion, but the first thing I thought of was Rich, his family and his kids and what a good person he is and just prayed for everything to be okay.”
Ruff added that he thought the medical staff did a fantastic job. “And I was there firsthand and if it wasn’t for our doctors and all the members reacting so quickly and so efficiently, I could be standing here with a different story,” he said. “But they did an absolutely fabulous job.”
Ruff also addressed how shaken players from both teams were in the aftermath of the incident. “I think that they’re doing like everybody in this building,” said Ruff. “They’re the guys that live with him, they’ve got that camaraderie in the dressing room. There’s nobody in there that wants to play hockey right now and I think everybody understands that when you’ve witnessed what they had to witness and that’s their teammate. And that’s the right place to be. That’s the right emotion to have. They’re not doing very good and I wouldn’t expect them to be.”
The NHL postponed the game due to the “emotional state of the players on both teams caused by the medical emergency.” A decision about the remainder of the game will be made at a later date. According to Ruff, postponing the game was an easy decision to make.
“I had a discussion with the players first and I addressed (them), just saying a prayer for Rich and thanking God that he was OK and told them that the first thing (Peverley) asked me was how much time left in the first period?” said Ruff, whose team left late Monday night for St. Louis, where they’ll play the Blues on Tuesday evening at the Scottrade Center. “That’s a typical athlete, but there’s not one guy in that room that wants to play hockey right now and I’m not there to persuade them to play. I don’t want to coach a team right now.”
During a physical prior to this year’s training camp, it was revealed that Peverley had an irregular heartbeat, a condition that Dr. Salazar said is a “quivering of the heart that does not allow him to send blood to places where he needs to, in his brain and heart.”
Acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade from Boston during the offseason, Peverley underwent a procedure in Cleveland, Ohio in September and missed training camp, the preseason and the first regular season game.
He also did not suit up for last Tuesday’s game in Columbus due to the condition, and Stars team medical doctors said Peverley’s condition had been closely monitored all season.
The team’s medical personnel have indicated that Peverley will be evaluated in the next few days. “Once there’s a cardiac event like this, it becomes a matter of trying to find a cause and addressing it,” said Dr. Salazar. “What this does to the future, it’s hard to say. There are many causes for this and the doctors at UT Southwestern will do extensive testing to rule out major causes of it and address them accordingly.”