For Red Wings, Damar Hamlin’s collapse reminder of Blues teammate’s ‘scary’ 2020 incident

Detroit News

Detroit — Hearing about, and watching the disturbing incident involving Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, brought back difficult memories for two Red Wings players.

Oskar Sundqvist and David Perron were on the St. Louis Blues when Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had a sudden cardiac arrest on the bench on Feb. 11, 2020.

“Scary,” said Sundqvist, who was in the press box that night in Anaheim, recovering from an injury. “A scary moment. You just don’t know what is going to happen.”

Sundqvist stopped momentarily after reliving the experience.

“I’m getting chills just talking about it, to this day still,” Sundqvist said after Tuesday’s Wings’ practice.

Bouwmeester was hospitalized, had a procedure to regulate his heartbeat three days later, having an internal defibrillator implanted. Bouwmeester, 36 at the time, never played another game in the NHL but went on to have a healthy and active life.

Sundqvist remembers sitting in the press box with other Blues players and officials when Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench.

“As soon as we saw it, we ran down to the locker room,” Sundqvist said. “Everyone wanted to know what was going on. It was a scary moment. We were lucky we had one of those defibrillators right next (to the bench). That helped. It probably saved his life.

“Scary.”

Perron was actually on the bench, not far from where Bouwmeester was sitting before slouching over and falling.

“I just remember clearing the bench and most of us were on the ice, kind of white as ghosts and light-headed,” Perron said. “It was kind of where the entrance is and I was near the middle of the bench getting closer to the defensive side. I didn’t really know the first 10 seconds what was going on and then you see guys yelling and jumping on the ice. Speaking with our medical staff, as odd as it is, it was almost one of the better spots where it could have happened. The defibrillator was right there, the ambulance was right there in the corner by the Zamboni, and the hospital was right around the corner.

“In all, it was a crazy situation turned out good.”

The Ducks players’ were supportive from the start, and the decision to postpone the game seemed to happen quickly.

“You’re really nervous for your buddy,” Perron said. “You’re really concerned, and then obviously the right thing happened right away. Their (the Ducks) coach Dallas Eakins, and (captain Ryan) Getzlaf came over and said, ‘We’re not going to play the game, we’re with you guys’. It was a quick decision there.

“Our decision was quick. We were just worried for our buddy.”

Ironically, all this occurred while the Blues were having their dads trip, so Bouwmeester’s father, along with many others, were at the game.

“All the fathers were in a suite in the corner and I’m sure it was nerve wracking time for them trying to figure out what the situation was,” Perron said. “We played in Vegas two days later, and we weren’t sure what was going to happen but you have to find a way to move on eventually. At that point he (Bouwmeester) wanted us to go on. We took a big picture at center ice with the dads, with his jersey, and sent it to him.”

When the team returned to its Anaheim hotel, Perron said, it was unique that evening to have all the fathers around.

“It was kind of a special, weird moment all with our dads in this big room there at the hotel, spending time together,” Perron said. “You kind of cherish those moments because you never know what can happen in life.”

The waiting for news, for any update on Bouwmeester, was difficult.

“A couple hours before we heard any news,” Sundqvist said. “When we did, a lot of guys were really relieved.”

Perron remembers the Blues were able to get Bouwmeester on a video call several hours later.

“You’re concerned for Jay and just to see his face and talk to him a little bit, it was surreal for us,” Perron said. “(But) it was good for him and for us.”

Perron saw Bouwmeester at a wedding last summer.

“It was super to see him,” Perron said. “He seemed to be doing great, got the situation take care of. He’s big into mountain bikes and skiing. You love to see these stories kind of turn out to be a positive in the end.”

Coach Derek Lalonde, a noted Bills fan from upstate New York, was watching Monday’s football game when Hamlin collapsed.

“Tough to watch,” Lalonde said. “Disturbing. Prayers to the family. Everyone understands that really puts it in perspective, how things are way more important than sport.”

The Wings were involved in a similar incident on Nov. 21, 2005 when Jiri Fischer collapsed on the Wings’ bench.

Fischer’s heart stopped and a defibrillator had to be used to get his heart beating. Fischer, too, never played another game and is currently a director of player development in the Wings’ front office.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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