GMs, execs acted fast behind the scenes
March, 11, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN.com
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL's general managers and other league personnel were gathered at a Florida golf club for a dinner to honor former Blues GM Larry Pleau on Monday night when they were alerted that something had gone horribly wrong in Dallas.
Dallas forward Rich Peverley had collapsed on the Stars' bench and immediately in Florida there was a desperate need to get more information. As the NHL's disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan always has the capability to watch video whenever games are on, even at a dinner.
He grabbed his iPad.
"My guys are back in New York doing the game in the video room," Shanahan told ESPN.com Tuesday. "They sent it to me immediately."
He shared the Peverley video with Stars GM Jim Nill, who was checking voice mails in an attempt to get any update of the situation.
Commissioner Gary Bettman, Nill, Shanahan, Colin Campbell, Bill Daly and Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen were all part of a group that went into a hallway to form the proper response, all the while trying to gather as much information as possible on Peverley's health.
Both the Stars and Blue Jackets let it be known that they strongly preferred to stop play for the night. Ultimately, Shanahan said, it was Bettman who made the call to postpone the game -- the right decision.
"He knew what to do," Shanahan said. "Gary's a very clear thinker in crisis mode. First and foremost, it was about the health and safety of Peverley."
For Shanahan, it was a reminder of the scary moment he experienced as a player when Detroit Red Wings teammate Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench during a game against Nashville in 2005. It was a moment that helped the NHL gain experience and make improvements in medical standards that might have saved Peverley's life.
In that 2005 game, Shanahan was at the end of the bench and saw commotion. He saw someone standing over Fischer and first thought a fan had gotten onto the bench. When the reality hit that it was a medical emergency, he joined his teammates in trying to get play stopped. They threw sticks on the ice, jumped over the boards. Anything to get the attention of the referees.
"The referees didn't know what we were doing," Shanahan said.
Mathieu Schneider, now an executive with the NHLPA and in Florida to represent the players in the rules debate being had by the GMs, was closer to Fischer than Shanahan. Much closer.
He said Fischer collapsed right onto him.
"That was one of the scariest moments of my career," Schneider said. "You had no idea what was happening. But then he started convulsing. It was real scary for everyone. [Red Wings head physician] Tony Colucci was right behind our bench and on top of him before anyone knew. It was a great effort to save him."
The same can be said for Peverley and the doctors in Dallas. While there was universal concern among those at the GM meetings in Florida for Peverley and the gravity of the situation, there was also gratitude that the Stars staff was as prepared as it was to respond to that situation.
"We've had a number of scary incidents over the years, probably 10-15 years. I think that has helped us compile medical emergency standards that we have in place in every building," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. "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."
The next step is moving forward.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the league had narrowed down the date on which the game between Dallas and Columbus would be made up. In following the Fischer blueprint, the plan is to play a full 60-minute game with the Blue Jackets starting with a 1-0 lead, carried over from Monday night's game.
Both the Stars and Blue Jackets were back in action Tuesday night, really the best way to honor a hockey player once the situation is stabilized. Keep on playing.
Shanahan understands the emotions the players are feeling right now and sometimes it's just best to get back on the ice.
"Look, it's tough that there's such a quick turnaround," Shanahan said. "I think they’ll have to use all of their skills as professional athletes to block things out, which they do with other things. ... My guess is that they probably all went to the hospital. Maybe had a chance to speak to him last night, certainly that helped them today."