Detroit Red Wings’ David Perron recalls seeing teammate collapse: ‘White as ghosts’

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings know what it is like to see a teammate collapse and learn it is because of his heart.

Watching the scary situation unfold regarding NFL player Damar Hamlin on Monday “was disturbing,” said Wings head coach Derek Lalonde, a native upstate New Yorker and lifelong Buffalo Bills fan.

“It was really tough to watch,” Lalonde said Tuesday. “Disturbing. Prayers to the family and everyone. That’s something that everyone understands, that really puts in perspective that some things are way more important than sport.”

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None of the current Wings players were with the organization when former defenseman Jiri Fischer suffered a cardiac arrest during a Nov. 21, 2005, against the Nashville Predators. But forward David Perron was on the bench when Jay Bouwmeester, then a teammate with the St. Louis Blues, went into cardiac arrest Feb. 11, 2020, during a game at the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench during a television timeout of a tied game.

“I remember clearing the bench and most of us were on the ice, just kind of white as ghosts and light-headed,” Perron said. “You are really nervous for your buddy, you’re really concerned.”

Perron recalled that Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf and head coach Dallas Eakins came over to the Blues bench and said, “we’re not going to play the game, we are with you guys on that.”

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It was a nerve-racking time, but good news came fairly quickly for everyone — a group that included the players’ dads, as it was the Blues’ annual fathers trip.

“As it goes, we kind of start hearing that it is probably going to be fine as he is leaving the building,” Perron said. “They stabilized the situation — I don’t know all the terms, but all I know is, we were supposed to head to Vegas after and we decided to stay overnight. Kind of a special, weird moment, all with our dads, in a room at the hotel, spending time together. You kind of cherish those moments because you never know what can happen in life. Obviously, you were concerned for Jay.

“When we heard he was doing a lot better, we actually got on the phone with him, maybe an hour, hour and a half later, maybe two — it seemed like it was 10 minutes, but it was probably that long. Just to see his face, talk to him a little bit, was surreal for us. It was good for the trauma maybe on his part, on our part, too, to try and move past some of that.”

Bouwmeester had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator procedure to restore his heart’s normal rhythm.

Neither Fischer nor Bouwmeester played professional hockey again. Fischer works as the Wings’ director of player development, and is currently scouting at the World Junior Championships.

During the 1998 playoffs, in a game at Joe Louis Arena, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger suffered a brief episode of cardiac arrest after he was hit in the chest with a puck. He was able to resume his career.

The situation with Hamlin, who remained in critical condition in the University of Cincinnati Hospital’s intensive care unit as of Tuesday afternoon, is eerily similar to Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen, who collapsed during a match against Finland in June 2021. Like Hamlin, CPR and defibrillation were performed on the field, and Eriksen was transported to hospital via ambulance.

Eriksen was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator device and returned to play last year.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon,Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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