Rich Peverley will not play again this season after collapsing on the bench during a game.
Whether the Dallas Stars’ forward will play again won’t be known until after more extensive work is done to evaluate his irregular heartbeat.
Peverley, 31, appeared briefly at a news conference Wednesday, reading nervously from a statement that thanked “the number of people that saved my life” after he went down in the first period of a game against Columbus, stunning players, coaches and fans.
Peverley, who was acquired in a trade during the off-season, left the questions to doctors who said his season was over and he would undergo a procedure that he decided to put off when his condition was first discovered in September.
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Dr. Robert Dimeff said Peverley was given the option of treating atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, with a minor adjustment and medication or missing several months to undergo a more invasive approach.
“He said, ‘I’m new to the team, it’s a new coach, a new general manager, I only have a two-year contract, they’ve got to know that I can play,’ ” Dimeff said of Peverley, who came to the Stars in an off-season trade from the Boston Bruins. “And so we went back and forth. That was a joint decision, an informed decision on his part.”
Dimeff said Peverley’s heart likely raced out of control and then stopped during the game against Columbus on Monday night, but probably for no more than about 10 seconds before medical personnel got it going again in the tunnel behind the Dallas bench at American Airlines Center. The game was postponed.
The procedure Peverley skipped in September, called an ablation, will likely be performed within days.
When he walked out of the news conference at St. Paul University Hospital, Peverley could be seen wearing a device that a doctor later described as something that monitors his heart rate constantly and can be used to implement corrective measures if the heartbeat gets out of rhythm.
Peverley remains hospitalized, but all heart tests have been normal, Dimeff said.
“The last couple of days have been a lot of anxiety, a lot of unknown,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “It turns out that it’s a great day to walk in here, to see Rich Peverley walking in here.”
Dimeff said the question of whether it’s safe for Peverley to play hockey again wasn’t one they wanted to address yet.
Peverley was sidelined through the first game of the regular season after the condition was diagnosed, then played in 60 straight games before complaining of discomfort that caused him to miss a game at Columbus last week.
Dimeff said doctors adjusted his medication after last week’s episode, and he played in two more games before his collapse.
“This is extremely rare in our sports medicine world,” Dimeff said. “We don’t think about atrial fibrillation as one of these conditions that leads to more serious rhythms.”
The Stars have been monitoring Peverley’s heart rate in practice, and he had what Dimeff called a “red light-green light” device that the player could use to tell whether his heartbeat was out of rhythm.
But the rapid response when he was stricken against the Blue Jackets wasn’t because his doctors have always been on high alert during games. The NHL implemented emergency medical procedures after Detroit’s Jiri Fischer had a similar incident that ended his career in 2005.
Fischer, who was 25 when he played his final game and is now the director of player development for the Red Wings, said he exchanged text messages with Peverley on Tuesday night.
“Just because on video my cardiac arrest looks like kind of similar to his, that doesn’t mean we’re the same or that we’ll follow the same path,” Fischer told The Associated Press. “He’ll have to make some decisions – educated ones based on the advice he’ll get – his family.”
The Stars flew to St. Louis not long after the Columbus game was postponed and beat St. Louis 3-2 in overtime the next night. The bench erupted when Jamie Benn’s winning goal went in, with the errant stick of one player striking exuberant coach Lindy Ruff in the face.
Alex Chiasson didn’t make the trip because he was in the same hospital as Peverley after being traumatized by the incident. But Ruff said the 23-year-old forward was back to skating Wednesday and should play Friday night against Calgary in the first home game since Peverley’s collapse.
“This doesn’t go away in one game,” Ruff said. “Those emotions that the players will carry forward are going to last for a good period of time.”