SAN JOSE -- The scary situation with Dallas’ Rich Peverley was all too familiar to Sharks head coach Todd McLellan.
On Monday, Peverley passed out on the Stars’ bench in the first period of a game against Columbus, and was quickly rushed to the dressing room where he thankfully regained consciousness after what was termed a “cardiac event.”
On Nov. 21, 2005, McLellan was an assistant coach on the Detroit Red Wings when forward Jiri Fischer went into cardiac arrest on the bench. The medical staff at Joe Louis Arena saved Fischer's life after he fell unconscious for several minutes, but he never played hockey again.
“We had that almost identical moment in a game where Jiri had trouble regaining his breath, and eventually collapsed while the play was on. It's a scary thing,” McLellan said. “It jolts a lot of people.
“As athletes, the players are viewed as almost immortal. They're tough, they're rugged, they're supposed to fight through things. They get stitched up, they get freight-trained by a hard body check, and they're right back out there. Players playing on broken legs, there's stories like that. This is different. This is life or death. It can leave a lasting impact on a lot of people."
McLellan agreed with the league’s decision in Dallas to postpone the game, just as the Detroit-Nashville match resumed at a later date following Fischer’s episode.
“Nobody wanted to be there anymore,” McLellan said. “The players didn't, the coaches didn't. I'm sure the officials didn't, and maybe just as importantly, the fans. I was watching some of that game, and you could see the fans in the stands in Dallas were shook. You don't buy a ticket and bring your family to a hockey game to go through that. That's the last thing you expect. It can leave an impact on a lot of people."
Adam Burish played for Dallas from 2010-12, and still has many friends on that team.
“Just knowing those guys, I saw Trevor Daley on the bench with his head down, crying. They’re a close bunch of guys there too, and they all care about each other,” Burish said. “They’re a close team, I know. I didn’t play with Peverley, but the other guys I did. They are a caring bunch of guys. It was a sad situation.”
“There’s bigger things than hockey. This is fun, this is cool, we have a neat job that we do, but there’s a lot more important things going on than hockey. Obviously, somebody’s life it absolutely more important than any game on a Monday night. The NHL handled it well, too.”
The Sharks had a comparable situation earlier this season when Dan Boyle lost consciousness following a head-first collision into the boards on Oct. 15, courtesy of a dirty hit by St. Louis’ Maxim Lapierre. The game continued after that, but Boyle’s condition was at the forefront of the players’ minds.
Peverley’s situation was a bit different, though, according to Joe Pavelski.
“To see a guy collapse on his own cranks it up another notch,” he said. “But, anytime someone goes down unconscious and needs help getting off, it’s scary.”
“You hope everyone’s alright and he can get back to playing as soon as possible.”