ANAHEIM, Calif. — Veteran Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was conscious and alert in an Orange, Calif., hospital after suffering a cardiac episode and collapsing as he sat on the bench during the first period of the team's game with the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.
Bouwmeester had just completed a shift with the game tied 1-1 at Honda Center. As Blues players skated to the bench during a TV timeout, Bouwmeester collapsed.
• Wednesday afternoon update: Armstrong says Bouwmeester still undergoing tests but doing 'very well'
Teammates Vince Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo were near Bouwmeester at the time and when they saw what happened they started waving frantically for medical help.
Players from both teams watched from the ice as Blues medical trainers and Anaheim trainers and physicians rushed to Bouwmeester's aid.
Bouwmeester was rushed to a nearby hospital with his father Dan by his side. It was the team's Dads' Trip, so 21 fathers (or in a couple of cases friends or relatives) accompanied the players on this two-game road trip.
A couple of hours later, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong issued a statement released by the team:
"With 7:50 remaining in the first period of our game tonight, Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac episode and collapsed on our bench after completing his shift. Thankfully, with the quick response of our medical trainers, Anaheim medical trainers and their team physicians, they were able to stabilize Jay.
"He was alert and moving all of his extremities as he was transported to UC Irvine Medical Center. Currently, Jay is conscious and alert as he undergoes further testing by Anaheim's physicians. We will update Jay's condition on Wednesday morning."
(Update: Armstrong will talk to media about Bouwmeester's situation at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Las Vegas, where the Blues will play Thursday night.)
Shortly after Bouwmeester was put on a stretcher near the visiting team tunnel and wheeled away, players from both teams left the ice. About 15 minutes later, the game was postponed, with the NHL stating "a decision on when the game will be played will be made in the near future."
The Blues, and all the Dads (who are traveling on the team charter) originally were scheduled to fly out of Anaheim following the game for Las Vegas, where they play the Golden Knights on Thursday. But the team decided to stay in Orange County overnight once they learned of Bouwmeester's condition.
The wait obviously was excruciating for all involved. With curtains set up in what normally is an open hallway leading into the visiting team locker room at Honda Center, security made sure no one who wasn't supposed to be there entered the area.
Fathers stood silently in the hallway, occasionally speaking in whispered tones — all wearing their son's Blues jersey, as is the custom for game nights on the Dads Trip.
Blues players milled about the locker room area in shorts and T-shirts, some on the phone, as was coach Craig Berube for a while.
Janitors arriving for their nightly cleanup detail in the area were politely shooed away by security. "Not now," they were told.
After a while, the team equipment staff began its normal chore of packing up sticks, padding, helmets, skates and uniforms and wheeling them in carts out to the team buses.
Once the news came that Bouwmeester was OK, the area quickly cleared and the team (and Dads) headed back to the hotel. Armstrong is expected to provide an update after the team arrives in Vegas early Wednesday afternoon.
The hockey community rallied around Bouwmeester, with teams around the league tweeting words of support.
"Praying for Bo!" tweeted former teammate T.J. Oshie.
"We join the hockey community and the St. Louis Blues in sending our thoughts and prayers to Jay Bouwmeester and his family," the Pittsburgh Penguins tweeted.
"Sending my thoughts and prayers to Jay Bouwmeester, his family and the @StLouisBlues," said Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner.
Some of the tweets had the hashtag "prayforJay."
At 36 years, 4 months, Bouwmeester is the oldest member of the Blues. His career looked in doubt after a poor start to last season, but his game rebounded and he was playing so well at the end that the Blues renewed his contract for this season.
He told the Post-Dispatch last week that he wanted to play again next season, but that there had been no discussions with the Blues. "They've got more important players to worry about," he said, a reference no doubt to Pietrangelo, who is a free agent after this season.
The soft-spoken Bouwmeester is held in high regard in the Blues dressing room and across the NHL because of his experience, wisdom and skill.
When Pietrangelo received the Stanley Cup last season after the Blues victory in Boston, the first player he handed the Cup to was Bouwmeester, who had played 1,184 games in the league before winning it.
On the international stage, he has represented Canada on gold-medal teams in the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup.
Not sure how the topic came up, but several Blues players only half-jokingly said last season that if they had to be stranded on a desert island with one teammate, it would be Bouwmeester because of his survival skills.
(He is known for his "outdoorsman" skills — camping, hiking and biking in the hills and mountains near his Alberta home.)
The Edmonton native had an ironman streak of 737 games end early in the 2014-15 season. It's the ninth-longest in NHL history.
A defense-first defenseman, Bouwmeester has usually been teamed with Colton Parayko on the Blues' shutdown pairing, going up against the other team's top scoring line.
Tuesday's incident was reminiscent of one on May 11, 1998, when Blues defenseman Chris Pronger was hit in the chest by a puck shot by Dmitri Mironov of Detroit. Pronger fell down, covered up the puck, then got up, took two strides and collapsed. He was unconscious for about 20 seconds.
The puck had caused Pronger's heart to skip a beat. He spent the night at a hospital in Detroit and was back in action four days later.
While a member of the Detroit Red Wings last March, Blues forward Jacob de la Rose left a game against the New York Rangers because of an accelerated heart rate, was hospitalized overnight in New York, and underwent surgery in April.
“I’ve had no issues since I had the surgery or the operation there,” de la Rose told the Post-Dispatch after coming to St. Louis in the Robby Fabbri trade in early November. “That was obviously scary when it happened, but I had a good summer and I haven’t felt it ever since.”
De la Rose was cleared for play this season and appeared in the first 16 games for Detroit prior to the trade.
“I just rested a few weeks after the surgery and I was able to start working out and kind of ramp it up as the summer went on,” he said. “I don’t even think about it anymore.”
In Tuesday's game, Adam Henrique put Anaheim ahead on a redirection of a shot by Hampus Lindholm 5:29 into the first. The puck appeared to deflect off the skate of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk and past goal Jake Allen.
Ivan Barbashev evened the score on the first goal by a forward in two-plus games. Jordan Kyrou, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against Dallas, snagged a loose puck as Anaheim tried to get it out of their zone.
He passed to Barbashev, who was behind the Anaheim defense and flipped it high past goalie John Gibson for his eighth goal of the season. Barbashev had gone nine games without a goal and the assists was Kyrou's first point since Dec. 29.
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