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Bouwmeester 'feeling pretty normal,' isn't sure about his hockey future

Bouwmeester 'feeling pretty normal,' isn't sure about his hockey future

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Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who collapsed on the bench in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 11 with a heart condition, said he won’t play again this season, in the regular season or the playoffs, but that he hasn’t made any decisions yet about his hockey future beyond that.

“I'm at the point now I feel pretty good,” Bouwmeester said in a media session at Enterprise Center on Wednesday. “That’s kind of the weird thing about this whole thing. Something happened totally out of the blue and unexpected, being in the hospital for a couple of days. Now there are some restrictions as to what I can do, but I feel pretty normal. That’s a good thing.

"There’s been a lot going on. (The future) is something I'm definitely going to have to evaluate. Wouldn’t say I've done that fully yet. There’s decisions I’m going to have to make."

General manager Doug Armstrong said Bouwmeester would not play again this season, in the regular season or the playoffs. 

"Jay and I have spoken over the last week or so," Armstrong said. "We both understand that he won’t participate in the regular season or playoffs for us. We talked about longer-term things that may or may not happen. We both feel, it’s February, we don’t have to make long term decisions at this point. He’s going to take time, get back in with his family and be around the team and he’ll address those things as the summer progresses."

Bouwmeester had just finished a shift in the first period against the Ducks. He skated to the bench, took a seat and soon after feel forward. Players quickly waved for trainers and paramedics and team doctors for the Ducks soon joined in. A defibrillator was used to restart Bouwmeester's heart.

He said as he finished that shift, there was no indication anything was wrong.

"It all just came pretty suddenly," he said. "Everything up to that point was normal, I hadn’t been sick or had much going on. It was completely out of the blue."

Bouwmeester thanked Blues trainer Ray Barile and the training and medical staffs of both teams and he acknowledged how fortunate he was to have this happen where it happened. Had it happened when he was alone, in a hotel room for instance, he would have died.

"I’ve gone over this a lot in my head and a lot of the things I like to do and enjoy and places where this could have happened and the outcome would have been very different," he said. "From doctors in the hospital to pretty much everyone I’ve talked to, that’s the consensus: it happened in the absolute best place it could have happened. The protocols that they have in place and the way that people responded so quickly, No. 1 it saved my life, and two, the fact they could get it on so fast was very helpful."

Bouwmeester said it still has not been determined what happened.

"Not exactly," he said. "That’s going to be an ongoing thing for a while, (with) some tests. The doctors in California and here in St. Louis since I’ve gotten back have been very helpful. I can’t explain that stuff the way a doctor could. From a lifestyle standpoint, as far as nothing out of the blue comes up, everything should hopefully be positive moving forward. We’re just kind of taking small steps right now."

Bouwmeester spent five nights at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., and had a defibrillator implanted in his chest to deal with erratic heartbeats in the future. He has visited the team on several occasions, usually game days, at Enterprise Center. That presence has been good for both teammates and for Bouwmeester.

"I think it’s helped me for sure, to come and see them," Bouwmeester said. "I think it’s helped a lot of those guys too to see me back to normal. For me, the incident, I know it happened, but I wasn’t there. There were other people that saw what happened and it was probably more traumatizing for them. I think when they see you up walking around it helps get things back to normal.

"Hockey has not been at the front of my mind the last couple weeks. It’s surreal because now, I feel pretty good. You can compare it to another injury you’ve gone through or you’re just not playing. You have to remind yourself of what happened. It puts things in perspective. I’m a hockey player, I like to play hockey, so sure, you’d like to be out there, but when you put everything in perspective, it’s OK to take a step back right now."

Bouwmeester has played in 1,240 regular-season NHL games with Florida, Calgary and the Blues. He won a Stanley Cup with the Blues last season, won an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2014 and a gold medal at the world championships in 2003.

He's well respected, not only from the Blues but throughout the hockey community. That was evidenced in the aftermath of the incident, when the hockey community rallied to his support.

"The support that people have shown has been pretty humbling," he said. "It goes to show you it’s sort of a hockey community and people really do care about each other and it’s a small world. I’m very appreciative."

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