Just two nights after one of the greatest nights in Dallas Stars history, where franchise icon Mike Modano saw his trademark No. 9 raised to the rafters at American Airlines Center on Saturday evening, the mood took a serious turn the other way on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That’s because Dallas center Rich Peverley had what was termed a cardiac event by medical personnel upon returning to the Stars bench following a shift 5:50 into the game. Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff immediately called for medical personnel to provide assistance.
And to the credit of the team of medical professionals who immediately arrived to provide aid, that’s exactly what they did. After moving Peverley to a hallway behind the Dallas bench, they administered oxygen, then an IV, started performing chest compressions and defibrillated him, a process which was quickly successful in restoring a rhythm to his heart.
During all of this, Peverley’s teammates and the Columbus players along with the crowd stood in stunned silence, largely unaware of what had just happened but knowing the circumstances had to be rather serious for on-ice officials to stop play 6:23 into the game.
About 10-15 minutes later, both teams headed to their dressing rooms and about 10 minutes after that, Stars PA announcer Jeff K. announced the game had been postponed.
My vantage point for all of this was as it normally is with most of the rest of the leering press, in the hockey press box high above the rink. It was a somber place as we all knew of Peverley’s history as far as a heart issue, that he had a procedure prior to preseason to correct an irregular heartbeat.
We also knew that Peverley missed all of training camp and the Stars’ opener last October against the Florida Panthers. But we also realized that until last week, his heart had not been an issue. However, Peverley evidently had an issue after the Stars lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 1st at the AAC and couldn’t travel with the team to Columbus in advance of last Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Jackets.
Peverley’s absence from that road loss was initially termed as being because of a lower-body injury. But when Ruff was asked after morning skate two days later, prior to the Stars hosting the Vancouver Canucks last Thursday, if Peverley not playing was tied to his issue from earlier in the season, Ruff confirmed it was.
Of course, prior to a short press conference right after the game had been postponed, none of us knew for sure this incident had been heart-related. Sure, we thought it was, but it wasn’t until hearing the remarks of Stars President and CEO Jim Lites, UT Southwestern’s Dr. Gil Salazar, Stars Team Physician Dr. Bill Robertson and Ruff that we knew exactly how the whole sequence of events had played out.
It truly was a scary and surreal scene down on Victory Avenue last night, but as Ruff aptly stated in his final remarks of the night, those medical professionals who quickly rushed to Peverley’s aid deserve a lot of credit for their effectiveness and efficiency in not only quickly assessing the situation but taking actions which likely saved Peverley’s life.
"Personally, I thought the medical staff did an unbelievable job tonight. And I was there first-hand 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," Ruff said. "But they did an absolutely fabulous job."
So, in a night that was truly like no other for someone like myself who is blessed enough to cover this great game of hockey, the bottom line is that Peverley, thanks to quick and top-notch medical attention, is now stable at UT Southwestern’s St. Paul University Hospital and that really is all that matters here.
Of course, the incident casts a considerable cloud over the future of the Stars center in the NHL, but all of that discussion is for another day. Dallas returns to the ice tonight in St. Louis to begin a quick road trip, but the one thing I take away from the entire night besides the obvious that sometimes sports just really don’t matter much all that much is that the true heroes of the night were the trained medical professionals who were instrumental in not only resuscitating Peverley but also stabilizing him.
And to end on a personal note, this event brought back some rather painful personal memories. When I was 19 or 20, I was awoken one morning by a loud thud in the kitchen. I jumped out of bed, ran to the other part of the house only to see my father laying on the floor with his eyes rolled back in their sockets, convulsing violently.
As my mother attended to him, I quickly called 911. After several minutes on the phone, my dad sat up and appeared fine. He went to the doctor later that same day and after the tests came back, he told me it wasn’t his heart, that it was viral in nature. But even though I was just a college kid with limited medical knowledge, I knew better.
Things were fine with my old man, to whom I largely owe my passion in sports to, until January of 1994. That was when while in graduate school at Oklahoma State, my mom called me early in the morning to tell me to get home to Tulsa ASAP. We had to fly to Houston, where my dad was living, because he’d had multiple heart attacks and was now in the hospital.
I never saw my dad conscious again and seeing him pass later that night was tough to say the least as that was my first taste of losing someone close to me. But tying all this back in to Peverley, my first instinct given his medical history was that it was heart-related, which immediately made me think of what happened to my father just over 20 years ago.
Rich Peverley has always been nothing but a gracious soul and good quote for us in the leering press and based on what those in the Stars organization and in that room say about him, he’s a great guy who is universally loved.
And the incredible outpouring of well wishes not just from his colleagues in the NHL but from every team and also from every other team in the Metroplex says great things about us all and our ability to realize what truly is important.
In fact, some of the most ardent well wishers came from Boston, where Peverley was traded from this summer along with Tyler Seguin as the backers of the Bruins wanted to send along their thoughts on their former centerman, who remains a beloved figure back in Beantown.
So, it’s understandable this incident shook that entire roster and organization. But I personally am so glad that he received such superior medical attention as is his wife, Nathalie, who was at the game and rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital.
It remains to be seen what is next both for the Stars on Tuesday night against the Blues and for Peverley, but all that talk can be tabled for a bit. Monday was a truly surreal experience for all who saw it live in the AAC or on TV, but I am so thankful to the man upstairs that it turned out the way it did.