Nothing can prepare you for witnessing a medical emergency during a live sporting event. That rang true for hockey fans at the Honda Center in Anaheim and those watching on the live broadcast Tuesday night. St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench 7:50 into the first period.
The chaos surrounding the incident generated silence in the arena and officially postponed the game. Response from trained professionals made the difference in this situation due to a league change from previous incidents.
Details of the Incident
After finishing his shift, Bouwmeester got on the bench, took a drink of water and collapsed next to teammate Vince Dunn. Dunn immediately flagged medical staff to attend to Bouwmeester.
Reports say he was in cardiac distress and CPR was administered before he was taken off the bench and immediately transferred to an ambulance. As Darren Pang clearly displayed concern and emotion for Bouwmeester in his live broadcast, fans sat idly by awaiting news of his condition.
Social media blew up with news of the occurrence and teams, fans and genuinely concerned human beings poured in prayers and well wishes for Bouwmeester’s well-being.
Opposing players were seen consoling Blues players as the incident unfolded while Bouwmeester was being transported to the hospital.
It was also father’s week for the Blues so Bouwmeester’s dad was in the stands when the incident occurred.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong issued a statement around 10 p.m. EST:
“With 7:50 remaining in the first period of our game tonight, Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac episode and collapsed on our bench after completing his shift. Thankfully, with the quick response of our medical trainers, Anaheim medical trainers and their team physicians, they were able to stabilize Jay. He was alert and moving all of his extremities as he was transported to UC Irvine Medical Center. Currently, Jay is conscious and alert as he undergoes further testing by Anaheim’s physicians. We will update Jay’s condition on Wednesday morning.”
The hockey community is amazing. The plethora of spiritual and emotional support is overwhelming. All the tweets, Facebook status encouragement and Instagram comments offering prayers and positive vibes for Bouwmeester’s recovery are so uplifting. The NHL as a whole includes not just the players and club personnel but the family and friends of the players along with all its fans.
Good on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell for calling the game and putting the player’s safety and the mental state of his teammates as the priority.
Previous Incidents in NHL History
Detroit Red Wings defenseman, Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench, was given medical attention including a defibrillator and resuscitation in 2005. Fischer’s outstanding heart condition prompted the team to have proper medical devices and doctors in place in the case of what transpired.
“It would have been a whole different scenario for me going into cardiac arrest in another building besides Joe Louis Arena back then,” Fischer said.
Dallas Stars center Rich Peverley had an irregular heartbeat, had surgery to correct it in 2013 and missed training camp but continued to play in the 2013-14 season following the procedure. On March 10, 2014, Peverley incurred a ‘cardiac event’ on the bench, was administered oxygen, chest compressions and then shock from a defibrillator allowed him to regain consciousness.
Yahoo Sports reporter, Nicholas J. Cotsonika, said “The NHL strengthened its emergency medical standards after the Fischer incident. Each team needed two doctors near the benches at each home game, and at least one needed current training in hockey-specific trauma management or Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS). Each team needed one AED at the home bench and another on an ambulance dedicated to the players.”
Prior circumstances incited the implementation of having an ER physician available nearby at every game. Luckily, this may have saved Bouwmeester’s life and should continue to be an absolute necessity in future NHL games.
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.