Rich Peverley called it quits after a near-death experience on the ice. Now he’s found a new calling mentoring the next generation.
BY SEAN SHAPIRO
Rich Peverley always knew he wanted to be a hockey lifer.
When he was a teenager, he closely followed player stats and transactions, and he envisioned working in NHL management when his playing career was over. It was, however, a move he never thought he’d have to make in his early 30s.
Peverley, 34, is just three years removed from the night his heart stopped on the bench after completing a shift six minutes into a game at the American Airlines Center on March 10, 2014. He still looks like he could play in the NHL. His former teammate Tyler Seguin said the former center would, “still be one of the best faceoff guys in the NHL.” And Peverley has had a clean bill of health since the incident.
But he made the difficult decision to retire after sitting out the 2014-15 season. “I could have kept looking around to find a way to play, but it wasn’t worth it,” Peverley said. “I had a family, and my new job made it a lot easier. I’m very thankful for the Stars helping me make that transition.”
Peverley is now the player development co-ordinator for the Dallas Stars, a role he worked to create with Stars GM Jim Nill during 2014-15 while spending time in Dallas working closely with several of the Stars top executives. “It would have been easy to say, ‘OK, Rich, you’ve got a year left on your contract, have a good life,’ ” Nill said. “But it was important for us to not just throw him to the side of the street. Even if it wasn’t in hockey, we wanted to help him. But he showed a passion for staying in the game.”
Peverley has always been a student of the sport. He was an undrafted college free agent who worked his way up from the ECHL and won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Boston Bruins. In his journeyman career, he pieced together 442 NHL games for four different teams over eight NHL seasons. “I think he understands player development better than a lot of people that have been in those roles for a long time,” Nill said. “He had to work and earn everything in his playing career. So when he works with and talks to a young kid, it comes from a place of understanding.”
Peverley is based in Guelph, Ont., and often watches prospects in the CHL and NCAA. He also makes two trips each season to Europe, recently spending a week in Finland. He has turned into the Stars’ official liaison to many of their prospects. Riley Tufte, Dallas’ 2016 first-round pick and a freshman at Minnesota-Duluth, is one example. “Working with him is great,” Tufte said. “You don’t get that opportunity very often to talk to and work with a guy that was a high-level NHL player like him and someone who probably could still be playing.”
Across the board, Stars prospects have raved about working with Peverley. Flint Firebirds left winger Nicholas Caamano, the Stars’ fifth-round pick in 2016 is another of Peverley’s charges. “He notices and helps you with the little things on the ice, the things you might not think to notice,” Caamano said. “On top of that, off the ice you can make a connection. You can really tell he’s got your best interest in mind.”
Since his retirement Peverley’s enjoying spending more time with his family. He and his wife Nathalie have three children: Isabelle, seven, Frederik, four, and one-year-old Elena. “I’m still busy and traveling, but it’s not nearly what it was during my playing career,” Peverley said. “When I’m home I get to be engaged with my kids and spend more time with them. There are some busy times, but overall we spend more time as a family.”
Between dad duty, his commitment to the Stars, and helping run his charity Pevs Protects – which is raising money to donate AEDs and promote heart health – Peverley is happy taking it one day at a time. “When I was younger, even when I was playing, I always thought I wanted to be a general manager, and I still think that that’s the goal,” Peverley said. “I have three young kids now. I like to be at home with my kids, and I like to see my kids grow up. If it works out, that’s great. But right now I’m not thinking too far ahead.”