If you've been a fan of this organization for longer than a hot second, you all know what happened, but bear with me for a few paragraphs.
It was a Monday night. I came home from work, immediately changed into sweatpants and a game day shirt. I was late turning on the game, but I can't remember why. I do remember turning on GameCenter Live though, and amidst the freezing (my internet was not the best) I heard nothing but silence. It seemed unusual for a hockey game. I went out to the living room, and asked my roommate to turn the Dallas Stars game on so we could watch live.
The Stars were playing at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had just beaten them six days before in Columbus. Nathan Horton, in what would eventually prove to be one of his last games played, scored to give the Blue Jackets an early lead in the first. A little over six minutes of the first period had elapsed. Rich Peverley returned to the bench after a shift with linemates Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
It was March 10, 2014, and seconds after coming off that shift, Rich Peverley collapsed into the laps of teammates Jamie Benn and Alex Chiasson.
My roommate and I watched the broadcast until they announced the game was canceled. I refreshed twitter every thirty seconds or so, waiting to see if new information had been released. I counted players on the bench along with the rest of viewing audience.
And I know now, because of the "Playing For Pevs" special, that Ralph and Razor had already done the math long before they were allowed to say any names.
I'd missed puck drop, Horton's goal, and Peverley's last shift as a player in the NHL. Watching video of those last moments of play in the game, you can see Stars players on the bench pounding their sticks against the boards, throwing towels onto the ice, doing everything they can to try to get play stopped. Peverley was quickly taken down the tunnel by the trainers, though it would be quite some time before anyone, either watching the broadcast or right there in the arena, would know who was missing from the bench.
Thanks to the swift response of Dallas Stars medical personnel, Peverley was quickly revived and taken to the hospital, where he received further treatment. The game was canceled and rescheduled for later in the season. The rest of the Stars flew to St. Louis for a game against the Blues the very next evening.
Peverley didn't want that to be his last game.
In interviews that season and going into the next, he continued to talk about working as hard as he could to stay game ready in anticipation of being cleared to play. I actually ran into him at a Texas Stars game in Cedar Park before I heard that he was assisting with the team. He remained a fixture in the organization for the 14-15 season, and helped coach and mentor the Texas Stars in faceoff drills.
Heading into the 2015-16 season, still not able to be cleared by medical staff to play, Peverley finally made the decision most could see coming. On September 4, 2015, he announced he would be retiring from the NHL and taking up a player development role in the organization that would let him work from his home in Ontario. As an undrafted player himself, he is most interested in helping junior and college hockey players develop their game to be NHL ready.
On January 5, 2016, Fox Sport Southwest aired a special, reviewed by myself and Carolyn in our inaugural post on DBD, called "Playing For Pevs." The half hour program offered an in-depth look at that night and the following game against St. Louis, and Peverley's new role with the Stars.
It took a while for information about exactly what happened to Peverley that night to be released, and teams are notoriously tight lipped about injury and ailment when it seems like a player might actually play again. But they spoke plainly in this special, and in interviews after. Peverley's heart stopped beating that night. An automated external defibrillator (AED), and someone who knew how to use it, saved his life.
To that end, Peverley announced during this special that he has started a charity called Pevs Protects. The goal of this organization is to make AEDs readily available in communities, and to educate people on their use.
On the same day, the Dallas Stars announced a Pevs Protects Night, which is scheduled for this Saturday, March 12, which, somewhat ironically, is also a game against the Blues.
Peverley will tell his survivor story in the Plaza outside the south entrance of the American Airlines Center at 6:30 pm. A portion of the single game ticket sales for the night will be donated by the Stars to Peverley's organization, and T-shirts and hats will be sold in the Hangar. Peverley will also take part in the ceremonial puck drop.
From the press release:
"Dallas will always be a very special place for me," said Peverley. "The Stars organization and the entire city was so supportive to me and my family through a very difficult time. Because of that, I feel it is important to give back in whatever way I can. Proceeds from this night will go directly to AED (Automated External Defibrillator) purchases and training in the Dallas community. The care and response that was given during my episode saved my life, and through the efforts of groups like the American Heart Association, numerous others will be given a chance for a second life as well."
We, as Dallas Stars fans, are lucky to have Rich Peverley in the organization and lucky to be fans of the kind of organization that players want to stick around for. And we are lucky, when we can, to be reminded that sports fandom can be about more than just a game.
See you all on Saturday.