LAS VEGAS — Just before general manager Doug Armstrong updated the media on the Jay Bouwmeester situation, meeting room doors opened Wednesday at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and out walked Blues players, coaches, training and equipment staff, and nearly two dozen fathers (and a friend or two) who accompanied the team on the annual Dads’ Trip.
Minutes earlier behind closed doors they heard head athletic trainer Ray Barile walk them through exactly what happened to Bouwmeester the night before in Anaheim.
Armstrong explained to them from an organizational perspective on how the team would deal with the situation.
And there was one other thing.
“We brought in a support counselor that I got through George McPhee (Tuesday) night, somebody that had worked with the Knights when they went through their tragedy on Oct. 1, just to make sure that the players know there’s someone to talk to,” Armstrong said.
McPhee is the general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, whom the Blues play Thursday at 9 p.m. Central. The reference to “Oct. 1” was the mass shooting that occurred on Oct. 1, 2017, at a music festival in Las Vegas.
Armstrong said the counselor was excellent. “She gave the players some signs to watch for in the next 24 or 48 hours, and the next three weeks. I thought it was good in the context that we’re trying to let the guys know that there’s help out there if needed.”
Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench in the first period of Tuesday’s game between the Blues and the Anaheim Ducks. A defibrillator was used to revive the veteran defenseman, who is doing “very well” according to Armstrong but remained hospitalized Wednesday at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Anaheim.
As emotional and scary as the events of Tuesday were for the Blues, they have a hockey game to play Thursday and a hockey season to finish as defending Stanley Cup champions.
“It’s obviously going to be difficult,” team captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “But we talked to Jay. He’s in good spirits. And when you see how he’s doing it certainly makes us feel a lot better.”
The Blues are a tight-knit group, and that bond will help them get through this.
“Yeah, I think so,” Armstrong said. “That’s the part of seeing how close this team has become over the last 18 months. You deal with the highs together and you deal with the lows together.
“This is a low, but I have no question they’re gonna lean on each other and keep aware if someone’s personality is changing for whatever reason. And we’ll work with them to make sure that we support everyone.”
Armstrong says it helps to have the fathers along on this trip — giving the players someone close to talk to, and vice versa.
“This touches everyone,” Armstrong said. “The broadcasters, the trainers, media. It’s not normal. I told the players, there’s no playbook on how we should react to this. So don’t think that anything you’re feeling is wrong. There is no right or wrong in this situation.”
Getting back on the ice Thursday for the morning skate and then the Vegas game will be a return to normalcy.
“I think today is a good day to digest, to exhale,” Armstrong said following Wednesday’s press conference. “And then tomorrow, we’ll get information on Jay. I think it’s going to be positive.
“We’re never going to forget what happened, but what makes these guys great athletes is they can for a short period of time put everything in its own compartment. And I’m comfortable that they’re gonna do whatever they can do to put their best foot forward.”
Armstrong said the Ducks game will be made up at a later date, and will be replayed from the start. Because the NHL schedule is so condensed this time of year, he said a game or two may have to be moved by the Blues and/or the Ducks to fit it in.
Defenseman Niko Mikkola has been recalled from San Antonio to take Bouwmeester’s spot on the roster.
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