It’s ironic that sports can bring some people together while breaking others apart. Competition and rivalry are a part of all sports but when something traumatic happens, everyone plays for the same team.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester’s cardiac event has proven that. The hockey community has overflowed with prayers, love, and well wishes for Bouwmeester and his family.
Update on Bouwmeester’s Condition
Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench after his shift against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Doctors on scene administered CPR, revived him, and took him to UC Irvine Medical Center.
The immediate attention to Bouwmeester saved his life. His heart had literally stopped beating.
According to a statement issued by the Blues public relations department on Feb. 14, Bouwmeester “has undergone a successful Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) procedure at UC Irvine Medical Center in Anaheim. Upon approval of release by the UCI Cardiology Department, Bouwmeester will be flown back to St. Louis and monitored by Barnes Jewish Hospital and Washington University physicians.”
To get an idea of what Bouwmeester is dealing with, the Mayo Clinic website explains what this device is and what it does: “An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a small battery-powered device placed in your chest to monitor your heart rhythm and detect irregular heartbeats. An ICD can deliver electric shocks via one or more wires connected to your heart to fix an abnormal heart rhythm.”
“Because the ICD constantly monitors for abnormal heart rhythms and instantly tries to correct them, it helps when your heart stops beating (cardiac arrest), even when you are far from the nearest hospital.”
Clearly this is good news, but Bouwmeester has a long road ahead of him. The team stated they would provide an update on his status early next week.
Support within the NHL Community
With such a scary incident happening so fast, the players were no doubt in shock and dismay. “Hockey gets pushed aside really quickly when you’re talking about something like this,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo explained. “You play against each other, you battle against these guys, but we all have enough respect for each other. Like Doug (Armstrong) said when something like this happens a lot of people start reaching out, it’s just how the hockey community is. It’s a really tight group of people.”
Pietrangelo talked about the support shown from the Blues’ player’s wives, as well, and how they’re all reaching out to Bouwmeester’s wife and family. “It’s just how our group is. We’re taking care of each other.”
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong added, “The NHL community comes together very quickly in something like this. It makes us, speaking for myself, but hopefully the coaches, players and trainers (know) that we are part of a very special fraternity.”
As essentially every NHL team sent tweets of positivity and prayers for Bouwmeester on Twitter, fans, fellow players and several other organizations sent social media messages in support as well.
Prior to the Blues’ next game against the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas on Feb. 13, there was a banner for fans to sign and send well wishes to Bouwmeester. Tragedy brings people together and this couldn’t have been demonstrated better than this.
Blues players and staff also sent a video to Bouwmeester during their morning skate before the game on Feb. 13:
Despite having such a difficult situation to move on from, the team rallied together to focus on playing their next game. It was fateful, if you will, that this was the father’s trip and a lot of the guys had their dad with them to lean on through this tough time.
“It was very nice to have our dads here as well (to) kind of help and kind of cope with everything that’s happened,” Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly said after the morning skate at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “Obviously everyone’s still very concerned. Tough thing but to have that day (off) take it to spend time with our family, guys together to talk about things. It was really good to have.”
What’s Next for the Blues
As they say, the show must go on. In professional sports, athletes are expected to deal with adverse situations, but nothing can prepare them for something like this.
“It is tough when you experience something like that,” O’Reilly said. “Everyone’s different. I know Jay Bo would want us to go out there, play a hard game and try to win. That’s what we got to think about. That’s what we got to try and do.”
That they did. Even though Zach Sanford scored four goals, the Blues lost in overtime to the Golden Knights.
Niko Mikkola was recalled and Bouwmeester was officially placed on injured reserve. Only time will tell how he recovers and whether or not he’ll play ever again. For now, everyone can breathe a little easier knowing he’s doing well and press on for him.
With a Mass Communications and Journalism degree from Florida International University, I completed internships with the Florida Panthers Hockey Club and Sports Illustrated. I’ve published several articles for various outlets, including one in ESPN Magazine and one on espn.com.