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Scary Time

by Pete Weber / Nashville Predators

What a jolt! Terry Crisp and I were busy attending to our coverage of the Predators’ game at Ottawa on FOX Sports Tennessee Monday night. Then, I noticed a twitter report that there had been a disturbance on the Dallas Stars’ bench at the American Airlines Center.

Still concentrating on our game, more reports followed. In a commercial break, TSN’s Gord Miller was nice enough to come over and write out a note for us, telling us that “the disturbance” involved ex-Predator Rich Peverley.

As the news came in that Rich (who got his NHL start with Nashville/Milwaukee in 2005) had been stabilized and was conversant, my mind raced back to November 21, 2005.

That was a night Terry and I will never forget. We were on the air from Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Greg Johnson had scored an early goal to put the Predators up, 1-0, on the Red Wings.

It wasn’t long thereafter that the whole tone of the evening changed. Confusion reigned supreme, click here to watch.

As you can see, all we knew was that a player was down, not the identity of the player, nor what the problem.

That makes it extremely difficult to report, but reporting instincts must take over. No opinions, no speculation should be offered at time like that. You can’t force the issue if you are on the air at times (unfortunately, I now must use the plural form here) like that. You simply must wait for the facts, or some visual evidence. All we knew was that the game had been stopped and that someone was in danger. The YouTube video demonstrates the professionalism of the Red Wings’ TV duo of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond. As a matter of fact, I had been on the scene in Buffalo in 1989 when goaltender Clint Malarchuk was cut and was spurting blood all over the ice in the Aud.

Ultimately, a camera between the benches provided us with the most basic information. It was Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer who was down. The team doctor was shown compressing Fischer’s chest.

Now we know Fischer’s heart had stopped and that he was unable to resume his playing career. In the interim, we could clearly see two hockey teams in almost total shock and dismay, not to mention the fans. No ruling had come down yet as to the disposition of the game.

For roughly 45 minutes on the air, all we could do was recapitulate what we had come to know, adding knowledge as time proceeded. We did an interview with Captain Greg Johnson downstairs and the shock on his face was evident. The will to play clearly had left both rooms that night.

Finally, everyone was told to go home, with a 1-0 Predators’ lead on the scoreboard. Many days after that, the announcement came: from what was to have been a home-and-home with Detroit would become consecutive games involving the two at Joe Louis Arena the following January 23rd and 24th, with 60:00 on the clock for each, but the Predators holding a 1-0 lead in the first game. (Greg Johnson’s goal didn’t become “official” until that time).

The Predators would sweep that January series and that helped them on their way to their first 100-point-plus season. They finished with 106 points and the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

It seems almost fateful that we interviewed Greg Johnson that night. We had no idea that he was playing his twelfth (seventh with the Predators) and final NHL season at that point.

That following summer, Greg signed as a free agent to return to Detroit, but a training camp physical that September revealed that he suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. At that point, he decided to retire.

So as the news was coming out Monday night, my thoughts were not only with Rich Peverley. I was also thinking about the Stars’ simulcast crew of Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh, as well as Jeff Rimer and Bill Davidge on Blue Jackets’ TV and Bob McElligott calling it on Columbus radio. Each of them did a great job, in the tradition of Jim McKay at the 1972 Munich Olympics, or Al Michaels at the 1989 “Earthquake World Series.”

McKay, after covering the Israeli hostage tragedy in Munich, received a note from a former CBS colleague, which read: “Today you honored yourself, your network and your industry. -- Walter Cronkite."

I am concerned for Rich Peverley, a hard-working player who made it to the NHL and was able to hoist the Stanley Cup as part of the 2011 Boston Bruins. The reports of his health are positive.

I am also extremely proud to be a part of this business, and the instincts that have been displayed when extreme circumstances arise.

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