Their season opener was just two days away. But it wasn’t the New York Rangers who were the biggest topic of discussion in the Boston Bruins locker room following practice on Thursday at Wilmington’s Ristuccia Arena. It was the life saving efforts that saved a man's life just over an hour earlier.
Players had just taken the ice when they looked into the stands and saw their trainers, an off duty EMT and Wilmington Police officers working feverishly to save the life of a man who had a cardiac event in the stands.
Under the orders of head coach Claude Julien, who didn’t want to the players to serve as a distraction as first responders worked to save the man, the team remained on one knee on the ice, silently serving as spectators and hoping for the best.
“You feel pretty helpless,” said defenseman Andrew Ference. “I’m just glad that of all the places for that to happen, there’s a medical staff here, the defibrillator was right there. The response was about as quick as you could ask for. Thank goodness.”
Some, like Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton, found the scene too difficult to watch. Thornton said that while he looked away, he was thankful the situation ended so positively.
For other Bruins players, it was a reminder of just how quickly life can change.
“I don’t mean to get sentimental or anything, but you realize how fragile life is and how lucky we are,” said forward Gregory Campbell. “We’re thankful for the fact that those guys could get there so quickly and with the help of our trainers, firefighters and a few good Samaritans, they were able to help the gentleman out.”
Though there has been no official word on the fan’s condition, he was breathing when he left the arena thanks to the quick actions of those involved. Fire Lieutenant John Brown told Patch on scene that the man was expected to survive.
It was a surreal scene at Ristuccia where fans packed the stands to watch Patrice Bergeron and his fellow Bruins on the ice. But it was the team that ended up being the spectators during the most dramatic action of the day.
“The real heroes were the people out there helping,” said Bergeron.
Off duty EMT Terry Gardner said on Thursday that it was lucky for the fan that his medical emergency happened somewhere with so many trained professionals, and a defibrillator on scene.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid said he couldn’t help wondering if there was a reason the fan made his way to the bleachers on Thursday.
“It was touch to watch. Just a scary situation,” said McQuaid. “But thank God for the people who acted quickly and saved a life. There’s a saying that everything happens for a reason. If you look at it that way, I guess we had a guardian angel out there today.”