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TJ Brodie scare had profound effect on teammates, coaches and staff

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Just an everyday practice, an everyday drill, an everyday moment.

After the mundane had escalated with frightening swiftness into the potentially unthinkable, Craig Conroy's thoughts couldn't help but flicker back, however briefly, to May 11, 1998 at Joe Louis Arena.

"In Detroit, playoffs,'' the Flames' assistant recalled the day. "When (Chris) Pronger got hit in the chest with a slapshot. 

"He dropped, just like Brodes did.


Video: Teammates and coach on scary incident with Brodie


"And Prongs' heart literally … stopped. They got it going again. Brett Hull was crying at the bench. Prongs was fine afterwards, everything turned out good.

"But that was scary. This was scary.

"The news so far on TJ is great. But it's still a wait-and-see situation, I guess.

"Things like this do happen. We've all heard about them. But in your mind, young guys, great shape, you're not really thinking about anything like that being possible.

"Especially at a practice."

The same sense of fear, of helplessness swept over Conroy when TJ Brodie collapsed during practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome as had over two decades ago.

"All I could think when it happened (Thursday) was dialling 911," he said, "and thinking: 'Where's my cell phone? Where's my cell phone?' I mean, I always have my cell phone."

T.J. Brodie is at home, back with his nearest and dearest from his stint at Foothills Hospital. 

There's no firm timetable moving forward, naturally.

But a battery of test results are turned out negative.

The prognosis is encouraging.

"I know it's happened before, where guys have gone down and had episodes like that,'' said skipper Mark Giordano, "but for me, personally, seeing a teammate on the ice … I've never been a part of that.

"Obviously Brodes, knowing him for so long, playing with him his whole career and being really good friends, it was an emotional day.
"We feel a lot better about things today, with some positive news, that he's home, resting and feeling better. Hopefully he just keeps getting better and better and is able to get back on the ice.

"At the start, you panic. You don't know how to react, really. Get the trainers out there as quick as possible. Our guys did an unbelievable job.

"I saw Brodes go down and skated as fast as I could over to him and by the time I looked back, Mikey (Gudmundson) was already halfway on the ice, ready to assist.

"The paramedics were here quick. It was a quick process. You don't know what to think. There's a ton of emotions.

"All of us were in a little bit of shock when we were standing on the ice, waiting to see what would happen. Thankfully he seems to be doing a lot better now. But, for me, it was one of - no, the - scariest moment of my career.


Video: "I've never experienced anything like that"


When it happened, Sean Monahan immediately phoned his girlfriend, who drove to Brodie's home to support his wife Amber with whatever help she might need.

"We live pretty close. So she went over and watched the baby while Amber went to see TJ,'' explained Monahan.

"You've got to try and move forward but at the same time it's a teammate who just went through a real tough situation. So it's gonna be in your head, you're going to be thinking about him and not having Brodes around … he's gonna be missed."

The entire crew trekked out to Foothills later to visit No. 7 once matters had settled some on Tuesday.

"It was really reassuring to go the hospital and see him back acting normal, joking around, just being the same old Brodes,'' said Giordano.

"That was huge, speaking for myself personally. Because the last time we saw him at the rink, he was still a little bit out of it, a little confused. But when we got to the hospital it was totally normal. He was feeling a lot better.

"We were able to hang out with him for a good chunk of time, It was there like we were anywhere in our lounge, joking around, the conversation was light. It was reassuring."



Assistant coach Martin Gelinas has been in the game at the professional level for over three decades.

"The scariest thing. When we first saw him go down, we figured he was just joking around. When we saw his face, we realized it was no joke.


"I've never seen anything like that. And I never want to again."

The quick action by the Flames' medical staff, as Giordano mentioned, was drawing unanimous praise the day after. And rightly so.

"When we saw T.J. was in distress, we immediately looked over at the tunnel and 'Help! Please! We need help!','' recalled Derek Ryan. "Mike was there right away, and then everyone.

"They were impeccable.

"You want to help in some way, any way you can, but we needed to step away and let them do their jobs. They're the professionals."

The closest person to Brodie on the ice at the time of the admitted to being quite shaken by the incident. 

"Everything's going to turn out good,'' predicted head coach Bill Peters. "T.J.'s a strong guy, a proud guy, a quiet guy. He's got a lot of coaching staff and his teammates and you could see that.

"It's unsettling because there's nothing you can do. You never want to see a guy in any walk of life in that situation. He's been here 10 years so there's a lot of love. It's a tight group.

"Everyone's different. I know how it affected me. It was hard. Very hard."


Video: "It's really hard to see someone in that situation"


Friday, things had returned to something resembling normal down at the 'Dome, everyone hustling following a short skate to get equipment bags prepared for the charter flight to Phoenix and the start of weekend back-to-backs.

"We'll be thinking of T.J. But it sure puts things in perspective,'' said Ryan. "Obviously hockey's a big part of all of our lives. It's entertainment and fun but at the end of the day there are way more important things going on.

"To see that happen was terrible.

"My son has had febrile seizures since he was like one, one and a half. It's scary. 

"The thing that matters most in life is family and the Flames are an extended part of all our families. So it's important that we stick together.

"And we will."

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