ST. LOUIS – Stars forward Rich Peverley remained hospitalized Tuesday in Dallas, undergoing heart tests after collapsing on the bench during a game that was postponed.
His teammates? They are trying to deal with what they saw.
After an eerily quiet flight and sleepless nights all around, the Stars were back on the ice for a morning skate in St. Louis, relieved that Peverley’s irregular heart condition had stabilized but clearly shaken by an event that puts their playoff push in perspective.
Even if the NHL hadn’t postponed the game Monday night in Dallas with the Blue Jackets leading 1-0 early in the first period, linemate Tyler Seguin was done for the night. He’d come off the ice just ahead of Peverley and was right there when Peverley lost consciousness during what the team called a “cardiac event.”
“I went in the room and took my stuff off right away,” Seguin said, his voice catching a bit. “I was right beside him when it was all happening.”
Forward Vernon Fiddler was with Nashville when the Red Wings’ Jiri Fischer collapsed on the Detroit bench in 2005, also from a heart problem.
“You don’t expect that ever to happen,” Fiddler said. “I’ve been unfortunate to be part of both of those.”
Fiddler was among four Stars players made available after the morning skate, a veteran hoping to help the kids cope.
“It’s pretty emotional when you see your teammate collapse like that,” Fiddler said. “We have some young guys on the team and it’s a lot more difficult for them because they haven’t been through things the older guys have been through. You’ve got to help them through that.”
For one Stars teammate, Alex Chiasson, it was too much. The team said he had joined Peverley in a Dallas hospital for observation because he was so distraught.
“Yeah, yeah, he wasn’t doing good,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “A lot of anxiety associated with what happened last night.”
The Blues also had emotions to sort out.
Coach Ken Hitchcock was watching on TV and remembered “the silence was deafening.” Hitchcock rewound his DVR and then froze the screen trying to detect who was in peril on the Stars bench, then waited nervously for an update.
“Lindy saying he’s OK, he’s asking about ‘Can he play?’ again, I think calmed everybody down,” Hitchcock said. “But there was no way you could play the game. The look on the players’ faces on both sides, there was no way you could play the game.”
Blues forward Brenden Morrow has vivid memories of Buffalo’s Richard Zednik getting his throat slashed by the skate of a tumbling teammate in 2008. Morrow roomed with Zednik in juniors and the two were close friends.
“Those are scary things,” Morrow said. “I don’t even know where to begin with what they’re thinking in that locker room.”
The 31-year-old Peverley, who averaged 16 minutes of ice time in all six games of the Stanley Cup last season with Boston, was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in training camp and underwent a procedure that sidelined him through the first regular season game. He had played in 60 consecutive games before sitting out at Columbus last week due to effects of his heart condition, but Monday’s game was his third straight since then.
“He’s always taken the precautions, he’s a very focused, organized guy, you can say,” said Seguin, who won a Stanley Cup with Peverley in Boston. “Sometimes bad things happen to good people.”
A doctor who specializes in the study of athletes and heart conditions questioned whether Peverley should have been playing, while taking care not to criticize those handling his medical needs.
“It’s a symptomatic athlete,” said Dr. Barry Maron of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. “That’s the key. A symptomatic athlete with known heart disease who’s out there. That would not seem to be optimal.”
Ruff said there were no previous concerns about Peverley and praised team doctors for doing “a fabulous job monitoring the situation.” Before the morning skate, Ruff emphasized the positive medical report.
“He’s doing good, he’s stable and he’s in good spirits,” he said. “A few guys who’ve interacted say he’s got his sense of humour back already.”
General manager Jim Nill said Peverley was undergoing tests to find the “cause of the event and a long-term solution.” The condition places Peverely’s career in jeopardy and it’s likely he won’t be back this season. Ruff, asked whether there was a prognosis for Peverley’s return, replied: “No, no, nothing.”
This adds poignancy to Peverley’s request, upon being revived, to get back out there. Every NHL season is filled with tales of players heading to the dressing room for repairs, getting stitched up, then rejoining the action seemingly no worse for wear.
“Athletes in general, hockey players in general are kind of weird that way,” Stars wing Ray Whitney said. “You’ll play through injuries. I’m not sure about playing through a heart injury. That’s a little bit aggressive in my opinion, but that’s Rich.”
The Stars recalled forward Colton Sceviour and Chris Mueller from their Texas AHL affiliate and Ruff said both would be in the lineup against the Blues.
“We’re still in a big playoff race,” centre Jamie Benn said. “I guess we’ll be playing for Rich tonight.”
AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.