The most important people at the American Airlines Center on March 10, 2014 didn't end up being any of the players or even the referees. They weren't a general manager, a retired player or, somehow, even a fan.
No, the most important people at the AAC on what turned into an incredibly frightening night were Dallas Stars trainers Dave Zeis and Craig Lowry, whose calm under pressure and quick reactions helped saved Rich Peverley's life.
If you've been a Stars fan, even if just for a short time, you know the Peverley story. He was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia shortly after being acquired from the Boston Bruins, had a minor procedure and was on medications for much of the 2013-14 season and seemed to be doing just fine with it until he suddenly collapsed on the bench early in the Stars game against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a pulse that went from fluttery to non-existent in a matter of less than a minute.
Zeis, the Stars head trainer, and his assistant Lowry were on the situation immediately - according to reports, it took just 14 seconds from Peverley's collapse until the medical staff were able to start their work - and they, along with Stars team physicians, carried him down the hallway between the benches to the tunnels under the stands, where he received treatment and defibrillation to restart his quivering heart.
The entire medical part of the situation took less than three minutes.
There are lots of heroes in that situation, from Zeis and Lowry to the Stars team physicians on hand - Drs. Robert Dimeff, William Robertson and Gil Salazar - to the paramedics and even medical professionals sitting in the stands. And many of the same personnel have been on hand for other frightening medical incidents in the past few seasons.
But only one set of people are with the players day in and day out, managing every medical complication that may arise, and that's the trainers. They've had to deal with Bill Guerin developing compartment syndrome after a hit to the thigh and subsequent plane travel, with Mike Ribeiro's throat contusion leading to an emergency tracheotomy and with Philippe Boucher's shattered orbital bone.
And Stars trainers are far from the only personnel who have potentially saved player's lives and limbs.
Winnipeg Jets trainers Rob Milette and assistant Brad Shaw, with assistance from the Hurricanes training staff of Pete Friessen and Doug Bennett, absolutely saved the life of Zach Redmond after an errant skate lacerated either his femoral or popliteal artery in the back of his leg after a practice. Assistant Florida Panthers trainer Dave Zenobi played a big role in saving Richard Zednik. And Sabres trainer Jim Pizzutelli was the first on the scene to save Clint Malarchuk from that scary throat slash.
Only one NHL player has ever died as a direct result of an injury or medical emergency suffered on the ice - Bill Masterton's name and number hangs in the rafters of the AAC in remembrance - and the quality of training staffs are a huge part of the reason why.
The first time I learned trainers weren't eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame was the day after the Peverley incident while listening to the Marek versus Wyshynski podcast. Jeff Marek made the comment that extremely serious incidents of this nature always make him wonder why trainers weren't eligible. After all, as he stated, Pizzutelli saved Malarchuk's life with reflexes even trained medical personnel would be jealous of.
We induct many types of people into the HHOF, from the obvious players and officials to builders who helped establish the game on a national and international level to media (who are given awards rather than inducted). There should be room, or at least an award, for trainers who make contributions above and beyond the average day-to-day work.
Of course, the trainers in question might argue that any of their brethren would perform as admirably under the same trying circumstances, that they train their entire adult lives to respond just like they did in that moment, that there were a number of others who helped make these outcomes as positive as they were.
Like many in the medical profession, they would likely say they were just doing their job, nothing more, and having to do that under horrible circumstances doesn't set them apart.
But the extension of that argument is that everyone in the HHOF, but particularly people like officials, are just doing their job to get there, and that performing at the highest level when you are called upon with the most urgency is what's important, no matter how you get to that situation.
For me, it comes down to impact, and there is no greater impact than saving a man's life. In Dallas, we saw a vivid illustration of that one year ago today.
Rich Peverley is alive, in large part, because of the actions of the Stars training staff. It's long past time the hockey community recognizes those people who have made life-changing differences in the lives of the players.