As part of our look back at the season that was, the DBD staff has put together a Top 10 list of the most defining moments of the season, moments that have an impact beyond the scope of just one season. Since most of these happened off the ice and built upon many of the previous moments, they are listed in chronological order.
Forty-eight hours after what was the emotional high point of the regular season, the Dallas Stars found themselves in the midst of chaos.
During a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the Stars bench just after finishing a shift. Before almost anyone knew what was happening, trainers and other medical personnel responded, and it took mere minutes before Peverley was conscious and responsive after suffering from a cardiac arrhythmia that required a shock from a defibrillator to fix.
We've obviously written a lot about that night since it happened nearly three months ago, from how the Stars bounced back on the ice to what may lie ahead for Peverley himself.
But I'd argue the real defining point for the Stars was not the incident itself, but the first-class manner in which the team, from the players and coaching staff to the front office and broadcast staff, responded from the moment Peverley went down.
He received immediate, top-end medical care to revive him and get his heart back into working order. Broadcasters Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh understood the gravity of the moment as it happened, keeping viewers and listeners as informed as they could while letting the images speak for themselves. Stars coach Lindy Ruff and front office personnel like president Jim Lites handled the ensuing fallout both that night and in the days after as professionally and compassionately as possible. General manager Jim Nill immediately left the NHL meetings in Florida to come home to be with his team.
When Peverley was in the hospital and then at home recovering, team members and other Stars personnel brought meals so he and wife Nathalie wouldn't have to worry about cooking for them or their young sons. When Alex Chiasson needed some extra help to deal with the emotional stress brought on by the incident, he received it without a second thought. And as Peverley recovered enough to travel, he continued to spend time with the team and filled in on the ice with the coaching staff.
Things didn't get back to normal right away. It wasn't business as usual on March 11 when the Stars had to play the St. Louis Blues, nor was it normal a few nights later, when Peverley and Stars trainers Dave Zeis and Craig Lowry received a standing ovation from the American Airlines Center crowd. But somehow it got back to just being hockey eventually.
The NHL rallied behind the Stars that night, as every team in the league (and several from other local organizations) sent their thoughts and prayers to Dallas. A special mention should go to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were as accommodating and respectful as possible of the incredibly stressful circumstances. The logistics of the make-up game ended up being a significant problem for both teams, but everyone understood it was clearly the right call.
The incident was a nightmare of a scenario, unquestionably the scariest moment for the franchise since it moved to Dallas. But given the terrible circumstances, the Stars rose admirably to the occasion, showing that the off-season commitment to finding not just good hockey minds but also good people to lead the organization was more than just a cliche for the media.
When we look back years from now at this Stars season, this moment and how the Stars responded to it will be one of the first things, if not the first, to come to mind. That's a shame. It's a shame for a team that did such great things on and off the ice, and more importantly it's a shame for Rich Peverley, who is a Stanley Cup champion and a heck of a hockey player who deserves to be remembered for that instead of one night in March.
Still, it was unforgettably terrifying and sad and unnerving and all the terrible descriptions you can string together, a real-world intrusion of the worst kind in what to most is usually a blissful, if frustrating, form of escapism. But in the face of that, the Stars organization showed its true character and real sense of family.
And honestly, that's a bonus. As someone put it on Twitter when the make up game with the Jackets came around, the Stars may have started that game down by one, but they were really up 17.
You couldn't ask for a happier ending than that.