LAS VEGAS — Veteran Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is doing “very well” following a cardiac episode Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, according to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.
“Jay is currently undergoing a battery of testing to determine the how and why of what happened last night and things are looking very positive,” Armstrong told reporters during a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria hotel Wednesday afternoon.
Armstrong thanked Blues athletic trainer Ray Barile and his staff, as well as the Ducks’ medical staff, trainers and physicians for their quick response after Bouwmeester collapsed while sitting on the Blues’ bench shortly after completing a shift in the first period at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
“Jay became unresponsive and the medical personnel used a defibrillator to revive him. Jay regained consciousness immediately,” Armstrong said. “There is never a good time for something like this to take place but there could not have been a better location than the Honda Center. Thanks to everyone at the Honda Center and the Ducks’ organization for their life-saving efforts.”
With most of the Blues players sitting in the front rows of a meeting room at the Waldorf, Armstrong was flanked at the podium by coach Craig Berube, captain Alex Pietrangelo and alternate captains Alexander Steen and Ryan O’Reilly at the press conference.
Armstrong said he and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell, and Anaheim general manager Bob Murray moved quickly to postpone Tuesday’s game after Bouwmeester collapsed.
The game will be made up at some point in the future, Armstrong said, with the teams playing a full 60 minutes or starting from scratch.
He also reiterated that the Blues will play the Vegas Golden Knights game scheduled for Thursday. If that seems liked stating the obvious, consider the fact the Blues almost saw a teammate die in front of their eyes in the middle of a hockey game.
“Shocking” was the word used by Armstrong, who after that press conference said: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who it is. This is sobering.”
Armstrong didn’t accompany the Blues on this trip. He just returned last Monday night from a scouting trip to the Czech Republic for the U18 Five Nations Tournament. He was watching the Blues-Ducks game from St. Louis when he learned what happened.
It has been a blur since then.
“I reached out to Devon (Bouwmeester’s wife) immediately,” Armstrong said, recapping the events of Tuesday night. “Fortunately she wasn’t watching the game, so I was able to explain to her what was happening. Made her as comfortable as possible that he was getting the best medical care.
“Our father’s trip is going on, that’s something you may know. So having Jay’s father (Dan) there was obviously difficult for him but good for Devon to have someone to talk to.”
Armstrong also talked with Bouwmeester and his father on Tuesday night, but basically left them alone on Wednesday.
“(Wednesday) is a busy day for him getting all those tests, so I was just gonna let things lay down,” Armstrong said “But I’m constantly getting communication on what’s going on. He’s alert, in good spirits, back to ‘quote-unquote’ normal _ whatever normal is after a situation like that. He’s talking. He’s not hooked up to machines or anything like that.
“Right now, I think we’re in the spot of how and why. So we make sure we can address that it doesn’t happen again.”
On Tuesday night, with the team still in Anaheim, Pietrangelo, his father Joe and Barile visited Bouwmeester at the hospital.
“I think it was important for me just to see him and for everybody else to see him,” Pietrangelo said. “So we FaceTimed (with the rest of the team). Bouw had his opportunity to kind of see everybody. Everybody sent him their wishes.
“I’m not gonna speak for everybody but I think it made everybody feel a lot better knowing he was in good hands. He was in good spirits with us last night. Typical Jay.”
And typical Jay is a good Jay, right?
“Typical Jay is a very good Jay, yeah,” Pietrangelo replied.
The sight of Pietrangelo and fellow defenseman Vince Dunn frantically calling for help once Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench, is something that will be indelibly seared into the minds of those who saw it happened, or watched the television replays.
“It’s hard to even explain,” Pietrangelo said. “It happened so fast. It felt like it was an eternity for us. But we just really reacted as fast as we could. Everybody seemed like they wanted to help and do something. But once we handed it over to Ray and the doctors, the EMT, they were impressive _ to see them go into action and what they were doing.
“But it’s not easy to see anyone go through it, let alone a close friend, a teammate. We’re a tight group in our locker room, if you’ve been around us you know how close we are. Certainly we’re lucky to have each other any time we’re going through something like this.”
The Blues and the fathers were scheduled to fly out of Anaheim after the Ducks game, but they stayed overnight flying instead to Las Vegas late Wednesday morning. Pietrangelo said the team didn’t feel comfortable leaving California without knowing that Bouwmeester was OK.
“But knowing, one, that he has his dad there, and two, that Devon’s at home. Our wives are all reaching out. I know Steener’s wife went by last night. It’s just how our group is. We take care of each other.”
Armstrong took a 6:50 a.m. flight Wednesday morning out of St. Louis and arrived in Las Vegas ahead of the team’s flight from Anaheim. He will stay through the Vegas game on Thursday.
Armstrong said the Blues have arranged transportation to get Bouwmeester back to St. Louis once he has been cleared to leave by doctors at UC Irvine.
“There’s no timeline on it, because his health is paramount.”