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LIKE FAMILY's Ryan Dittrick on emotional impact of scary situation with TJ Brodie, and relief at outcome

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Some days, it feels like hockey is the most important thing in the world.

Until it isn't. 

We savor the joys, fuss in the misery, plan our evenings around it, and allow our deepest emotions to implant themselves in the very fabric of our allegiance. 

Until none of that matters. 

Fifteen minutes into practice Thursday at the Scotiabank Saddledome, we were all given - in the most bitter way imaginable - a sobering reminder of what's truly important.

"It was an emotional day yesterday," said Flames General Manager Brad Treliving, his eyes welling up with tears as he updated the status of defenceman TJ Brodie. "I can't thank the work of the medical team enough. You saw the best in the business in action, live and in colour there."

Brodie, a 29-year-old husband and father passed out and fell to the ground before his body convulsed. Medical personnel rushed in, the paramedics were called, and Brodie - who eventually came to and was alert upon departure - was transported to the Foothills Medical Centre for further evaluation. 

He was released around the dinner time, when a second, official update was relayed from the Flames: 

"TJ has been discharged and is doing well in recovery at home with his family."

Thank goodness. 

"All the tests have come back negative," Treliving said, reassuringly, at a Friday press conference. "He's doing well. Feeling good, but a bit sore. 

"We're not going to leave any stone unturned, (but) there's no set timetable for TJ's return. The good news is that he's come through everything so far."


Video: Brad Treliving and team doctor Ian Auld address media


For the time being, Brodie will remain home in Calgary under the supervision of the Flames' medical staff, led by the club's head physician, Dr. Ian Auld.

"What we can say is that an event like this can be caused by something scary, and they can also be caused by what they call syncope episodes," Auld said. "The reasons for why people faint are many, and dehydration certainly could be one of them. 

"At this point we don't have all the information - we still have a few more tests to go - but it's very likely related more to a fainting episode than it is something significant inside the brain.

"The purpose of fainting is to eliminate gravity and help your heart get blood to your brain. If there's a period of time where that doesn't happen, the brain can go on hyperdrive and with that, can come some of the motor movements that we saw. 

"That's an assumption. We have a lot of other tests that we need to do and we're not hanging our hat on that, but he does have some other test that we need to complete to look at the neurological component of it."

Considering how terrifying the event was, how precarious and life-threatening it felt in real-time, and the emotional impact it had on everyone in the organization, Friday was a good news day at the Scotiabank Saddledome. 


Video: Teammates and coach on scary incident with Brodie


Twenty-one hours earlier, it was anything but. 

Colleague George Johnson later remarked that in his 38 years covering the Flames, along with some of the world's most iconic sports moments, a medical scare like this has never happened in this building.

And it's the last thing you'd expect to witness when you cover a game for a living. 

It's easy to think of these guys as bulletproof. 

The courage they show, the confidence they have, and the high level at which they perform - it's almost impossible to think of them as anything less than the Teflon-strong forces of nature we spent our childhoods idolizing. 

But there we were, staring blankly at a scene that shocked us to our core. 

The passing seconds felt an eternity. 

Meanwhile, the professionals who spent years training for this went to work. 

Assistant Athletic Therapist Mike Gudmundson and Massage Therapist James Borelli were first to the scene - literally, in the blink of an eye.  

That help arrived in a calm, coordinated effort.

Then, as the players huddled en masse at the blueline, it got quiet. 

Not a whisper. 

Not even the sound of a shuffling skate blade for a good 10 minutes as Brodie received treatment, finally sitting up and getting a tap on the pads from a concerned coach Bill Peters, who halted practice and eventually steered the rest of his players to the dressing room.

Players, reporters, and security staff were all visibly shaken. 

"When he first passed out, he was out," Treliving said. "By the time I got down to the ice, his eyes were open. I don't know if he was communicating a lot, but he was alert.

"It can happen to anybody, but especially when it's a teammate, I think our team was very affected. Ian and I were at the hospital all while TJ was there, and it was a stream - the whole team was up there at some point. They were very affected. We met this morning, updated them, but… the closeness on this team was prevalent when they see a teammate in trouble like that."

Because around here, your team is your family. 

Brodie will undergo further testing in the coming days, including a battery of neurological assessments and cardiological workups - among others - to rule out any potentially serious underlying causes. 

For now, hockey can wait.

The important thing is that Brodie is home, happy and resting with his wife and young daughter.

Nothing else matters.

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