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Peverley incident validates NHL's player safety work

by Shawn P. Roarke

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The incident Monday night involving Dallas Stars center Rich Peverley was not easy to hear about for NHL general managers, who were gathered together for a dinner while at the annual March GMs' meeting. But as difficult as it was to process, the incident validated the work the League has done in the past decade or so to address player safety.

Several attendees left the dinner and were updated on the proceedings in Dallas on a step-by-step basis, according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.


"I think we're much more prepared now than ever to handle serious incidents like that," Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray said after the general managers concluded their meeting Tuesday. "I think last night the little bit I saw on replay was that it was very quick to get him in position for the doctor to treat him."

There has been universal praise for the work of the doctors in helping Peverley, who suffered a cardiac incident during the first period of the Stars' game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center. Peverley is in stable condition at a Dallas-area hospital

"Rich Peverley is resting comfortably and being monitored at UT Southwestern St. Paul," Dallas GM Jim Nill said in a statement. "He is currently undergoing testing to discover what triggered the cardiac event last night.

"The focus of all the testing and monitoring is being dedicated to finding the cause of the event and a long-term solution to rectify the problem. We do not have any more specifics at the moment. Rich has been communicating with his teammates and friends. He is extremely grateful for all of the prayers and support that he's received from fans and friends alike."

The medical personnel who initially treated Peverley were in place because of changes during the past decade or so the League has made to the Emergency Medical Standards for the care of injured NHL players, a set of guidelines to which all teams must adhere.

"Everything played out and transpired exactly as you would draw it up, and luckily we had a fortunate result," Daly said.

Among the provisions of the most recent Emergency Medical Standards is the presence of a doctor at rinkside or in the medical room during game play, the placement of an automatic external defibrillator on the home bench, and the presence of an ambulance on the property dedicated solely to the care and transport of players.

Many of the protocols have their origins traced back to a 2005 incident involving Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer, who suffered an incident similar to Peverley's during a game. Fischer was given chest compressions on the Detroit bench and he credits team physician Dr. Tony Colucci with saving his life.

"We've had a number of scary incidents over the years, probably 10-15 years," Daly said. "I think that has helped us compile medical emergency standards that we have in place in every building, emergency medical kits, and we have standards and requirements for physicians and medical resources at the building.

"Obviously in this instance, the fact that the doctors have to be proximate to the playing surface with immediate access to the players' bench or the playing surface is important. Thank God it worked out the way it did."

Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to the executive director for the NHL Players' Association, was also in Florida to take part in the GMs' meeting on Tuesday. He was playing for the Red Wings when Fischer collapsed in 2005; in fact, Fischer fell on Schneider as Fischer returned to the bench after his shift.

"He is a big man and he collapsed right on me," Schneider said. "That was one of the scariest moments of my career. Thank goodness [Dr.] Tony Colucci was right there at the time. It was shocking, particularly [because] Fisch was just an incredible athlete, in amazing shape."

Those memories came flooding back Monday night for Schneider, but again he saw a potentially tragic situation averted by the quick actions of the personnel entrusted with protecting the well-being of the players.

"The League has done a great job over the years to make sure every safety net is there and available to the guys," he said. "In the two instances, I've known the doctors have literally saved the players' lives. They are tremendous doctors and you can't say enough for having them there. "

The game was postponed after Peverley was treated and stabilized. It will be rescheduled at a later date. Daly said the League has identified a date for the make-up game, but some logistics have to be finalized.

"There's only a couple dates that work," Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Tuesday. "It's going to make the schedule tough, but some things are bigger than hockey. This was the only decision to make."

Daly also said the game will be picked up with Columbus leading 1-0 although it will be a full 60-minute game, the same model used by the NHL after the Fischer incident.

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