The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/11/14 at 06:17 PM ET
As Paul noted, Jiri Fischer spoke with ESPN's Pierre LeBrun about Rich Peverley's collapse yesterday evening, and he also addressed the issue in a 12-minute interview with TSN 1050's Dave Naylor (and Fischer talks about his new role as well, though he did not confirm freelance reporter "Stormin Norman's" Tweet that the Wings may bring Anthony Mantha into the mix once the Val-d'Or Foreurs' playoff run ends, and I cannot confirm that either):
Fischer also spoke to The Fan 590's Matt Brown about the incident...
MLive's Ansar Khan spoke about the incident with the Red Wings' director of player development (Fischer's embraced his role and then some, and you can thank the Wings' increased results in terms of successfully developing NHL prospects in no small part due to Fischer and the ways by which he, Jim Nill and the Wings' relationship with the Grand Rapids Griffins overhauled what was once a sputtering prospect pipeline)...
After reaching out Tuesday to Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill, the longtime Red Wings assistant GM whom Fischer worked under, Fischer called Peverley and left a message. If Peverley needs any advice or wants to speak to someone who has experienced what he’s going through, Fischer will be available for him.
“When I went through it, I didn’t want to talk to anybody for days,” Fischer said.
He described the days following his incident as chaotic, as teammates, club personnel, team owners Mike and Marian Ilitch and his parents, who flew in from the Czech Republic, came to the hospital.
Fischer’s scare led to changes in how NHL arenas, and other facilities, prepare for such emergencies.
“It certainly got a lot of attention,” Fischer said. “It was the first incident of that kind on national TV, the first cardiac arrest live on TV. It made a lot of people think hard about it.”
Fischer said it prompted arenas to make sure defibrillators were nearby and that people were trained in their use. Evacuation procedures were reviewed; hallways in arenas are now clear during games to ensure that emergency vehicles have easier access in and out.
“It started an avalanche of great things that hopefully people will benefit from,” Fischer said. "Unfortunately, cardiac arrests will continue to happen. But everyone is doing their best to prevent them.”
And two of Fischer's teammates who are now on opposite sides of the fence--NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and NHLPA "assistant to the executive director" Mathieu Schneider--weighed in on the incident from the GM's meetings, as noted by ESPN's Craig Custance:
Both the Stars and Blue Jackets let it be known that they strongly preferred to stop play for the night. Ultimately, Shanahan said, it was Bettman who made the call to postpone the game -- the right decision.
"He knew what to do," Shanahan said. "Gary's a very clear thinker in crisis mode. First and foremost, it was about the health and safety of Peverley."
For Shanahan, it was a reminder of the scary moment he experienced as a player when Detroit Red Wings teammate Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench during a game against Nashville in 2005. It was a moment that helped the NHL gain experience and make improvements in medical standards that might have saved Peverley's life.
In that 2005 game, Shanahan was at the end of the bench and saw commotion. He saw someone standing over Fischer and first thought a fan had gotten onto the bench. When the reality hit that it was a medical emergency, he joined his teammates in trying to get play stopped. They threw sticks on the ice, jumped over the boards. Anything to get the attention of the referees.
"The referees didn't know what we were doing," Shanahan said.
Mathieu Schneider, now an executive with the NHLPA and in Florida to represent the players in the rules debate being had by the GMs, was closer to Fischer than Shanahan. Much closer.
He said Fischer collapsed right on to him.
"That was one of the scariest moments of my career," Schneider said. "You had no idea what was happening. But then he started convulsing. It was real scary for everyone. [Red Wings head physician] Tony Colucci was right behind our bench and on top of him before anyone knew. It was a great effort to save him."
And if you missed ESPN's LeBrun's interview, didn't hold back in terms of his emotions...
Jiri Fischer was at home in suburban Detroit with his 7-year-old son Monday night, catching up on all the NHL action and scores.
"Then the big news hit. I watched the video right away," Fischer told ESPN.com on Tuesday in the aftermath of Rich Peverley's scary collapse and cardiac resuscitation.
Impossible to ignore were the flashbacks to his own near-tragic cardiac episode in 2005 while playing for the Detroit Red Wings.
"The two videos are similar, except I'm getting chest compressions while being unconscious on the bench and they carried Rich into the locker room," said Fischer, before adding about watching Monday's video: "Scary, goose bumps ..."
Nor did he hold back in terms of explaining the toll the incident took upon his relationships:
"It's a whole different ballgame when it comes to how it affects the people in your life," said Fischer, who also has a 12-year-old son. "My fiancée, who then became my wife, she's my ex-wife now, she never got over my cardiac arrest. I believe I did. But when people love us, meaning survivors, it's different sometimes. My dad woke up in the middle of the night in the Czech Republic to watch my game on the Internet. He found out that I died and was brought back to life. He was my biggest fan, watched every game."
Fischer said the Red Wings flew his parents to Detroit ("The organization was unbelievable") and that he'll never forget the look on his parents' face.
"When I saw my parents look at me for the first time after my cardiac arrest, it was a different look," he said. "They had never looked at me like that before. It was a look of complete panic, complete hopelessness, but also very thankful that I survived."
Update: Fischer told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that his support will be at Peverley's beck and call--if Peverley wants to speak with him:
"There were a lot of emotions, a lot of different emotions," said Fischer, 33, who never played again. "I couldn't believe it was happening again. I was concerned for Rich. It was scary."
Fischer is now the Red Wings’ director of player development. He reached out to Dallas general manager Jim Nill, the former Red Wings assistant GM, to let Peverley know he's willing to talk if Peverley would like to.
"I would listen to Rich; that's the first thing," Fischer said. "You don't want to talk to anyone at first. You're scared. ‘Can I still play?’ There are so many questions."
Dr. Tony Colucci and the Red Wings medical staff are credited with saving Fischer's life, and Fischer said credit must go to the Stars' medical personnel.
"Very impressive; they were so under control," Fischer said.
Update #2: Make it 4 interviews, with this coming from the Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy:
“It’s a disaster when it happens,” Fischer said. “There are so many heart conditions and so many are in a grey area: Is it genetic? It is going to change? How does it behave?”
It’s too early to speculate on Peverley’s future in the NHL, but there will be no denying the fact everything will be different for the Stanley Cup-winning right winger as life goes on. Fischer has begun his second career as an NHL executive and was also an assistant coach with the Czech Republic’s world junior team in the past, but that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal.
“It changes everything,” he said. “Every time I see my parents, they look at me differently. It’s tough.”
When asked if he had any advice for Peverley once the Dallas forward gets out of the hospital, Fischer offered the following:
“This is the reality,” he said. “It’s life-changing, it’s not easy, but cardiac arrest is just the start. Now it’s about restarting your life. Having a partner…his wife must be real strong. You will not be the same as before, but that does not mean it will all be bad. I have two sons and one was born 10 months after my cardiac arrest – so you do the math.”
While the hockey world waits for an update on Peverley, Fischer continues to keep an eye on developments in the medical industry and work with the Red Wings, who are pushing to get into the post-season for the 23rd straight time. He has not let his past keep him down.
“Tragedy is always the start,” he said. “Now it’s up to the survivors.”
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