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From Tuesday's Detroit News -
'Shocked and devastated'
Hockey takes a back seat to concern about Red Wings' Fischer
By Bob Wojnowski / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- One moment, there's a game, with the crowd cheering and the puck moving and the action nonstop. And then the next moment becomes the most horrifying anyone could ever imagine, as the crowd hushes and the players scream for help, and a young, strong athlete fights for his life.
Everything stopped in Joe Louis Arena on a surreal Monday night, the night Jiri Fischer's heart stopped. The Red Wings' defenseman was in stable condition later Monday at Detroit Receiving Hospital. Team officials said he was awake, responsive and in good spirits while greeting teammates, as he recovered from what was called a seizure.
There was no more hockey on this night, surely one of the scariest in NHL history, absolutely the scariest night the Wings could ever remember. The Detroit-Nashville game was stopped in the first period, to be resumed later, a decision that didn't even need to be debated. All involved needed time to compose themselves, and figure out what they saw.
It was something no one likely will forget, from the fans in the stands feverishly making cell-phone calls to gather information, from the doctors, team officials and players who were right there. Steve Yzerman, the Wings' long-time captain, and Brendan Shanahan spoke for the team afterward, and the somberness was staggering.
Barely an hour earlier, they had watched Fischer, 25, suddenly slump forward on the bench, then to his side.
First, defenseman Brett Lebda called for help. Then teammates noticed and started yelling for the action on the ice to stop. To finally gain the referees' attention, Shanahan and others leaped across the boards and interrupted the game, and doctors raced to the Wings' bench.
Team physicians Tony Colucci and Doug Plagens pounded on Fischer's chest. Players stepped back, not saying a word. The doctors eventually used a defibrillator to shock the heart to life.
In their eyes and in their tone, the Wings knew they'd seen something they'd never seen before. As the shock wore off, they were grateful they hadn't witnessed the absolute worst.
'You fear for the guy's life at that point,' Yzerman said. 'It's an indescribable feeling.'
Asked if it was the most-frightening scene he'd ever witnessed in a game, Yzerman didn't hesitate.
'Without question,' he said. 'I don't recall being in a situation like that. ... You're just sitting back, hoping, not really sure what his condition is.'
It's an unknown that won't be answered completely for a while. We don't know how long it will take Fischer to recover, and whether he'll be cleared to play hockey again.
He was diagnosed with a heart abnormality in September 2002 that caused him to miss two days of training camp. We won't dare speculate about that right now.
All we know is Fischer was playing a game, then gasping for life, and if anyone can make any sense of that, good luck. The big defenseman is well-liked by teammates, friendly and hard-working. He battled back from reconstructive knee surgery that sidelined him almost all of the 2002-03 season.
In six seasons with the Wings, Fischer had grown from a young, promising prospect into a defensive stalwart. Players saw no hint of trouble, not before the game or during it.
'He was his usual self before the game,' Shanahan said. 'He looked good.'
Shanahan and Yzerman helped Fischer's fiancé, Avery, across the ice to be with Fischer, and her state reflected the team's.
'She was confused and scared, like we all were,' Shanahan said. 'The players and the Nashville players were all very rattled. I don't think anybody, players or management, felt it was right to finish.'
So real life intrudes again, as it often does in sports, usually uninvited. There's no explanation and I doubt there's even a lesson here, except to reiterate the importance of timely and skilled medical help. We have seen this too many times around here, including the Lions' on-field tragedies involving Mike Utley (who was paralyzed in 1991) and Reggie Brown (who stopped breathing after being hit in 1997, but was revived).
Fischer may recover and be fine, we hope. In that regard, perhaps he was actually lucky that the seizure occurred when so many people were around and the response was so quick.
But as the fans filed out of the arena and the players stowed their sticks in bags and everyone shook their heads, no one seemed to be in a lucky mood. Officials kept the Wings' dressing room closed, but Yzerman, Shanahan and coach Mike Babcock came out to address the media. It wasn't hard to gauge the feelings of the players behind the doors.
'They're shocked and devastated,' Babcock said. 'This man goes to war with them every night. You become close to your teammates. That's why we're not playing hockey right now.'
The hockey stopped when real life started, in a moment of sudden horror that could have become something much worse. Everyone was shaken by what happened. In the coming days, hopefully everyone, including Fischer, can be thankful for what didn't happen.
Fischer incident leaves Wings upset
Game is stopped after defenseman suffers a seizure
By Ted Kulfan / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Jiri Fischer, a defenseman for the Red Wings, suffered a seizure during Monday's game against Nashville and was taken to the hospital.
Fischer, 25, was listed in stable condition and awake and talking.
Medical personnel for the Red Wings administered CPR on Fisher, whose heart stopped, according to coach Mike Babcock. A defibrillator was used on the Czech Republic native, who was removed on a stretcher and taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital.
John Hahn, senior director of communications for the Red Wings, said Fischer is being treated at the Detroit Medical Center and is 'in good condition. He is in stable condition. He'll be here at the hospital for the next two days.'
Fischer will receive more tests, but Hahn would not say where. Fischer has been visited by several of his Red Wings teammates and is in good spirits and 'very jovial,' Hahn said.
He said there will be another news briefing this afternoon.
'He came off the shift, he was standing with his teammates on the bench,' Babcock said. 'He had a seizure and fell forward and ended up on his side. Right away when we got aware of what was going on we stopped and got medical help right away. They started doing CPR on him. His heart had stopped and he had no pulse but they hooked up the auto defibrillator and they shocked him.
'Our medical people did a phenomenal job.'
'Shocked and devastated,' Babcock said of his reaction. 'This man goes to war with them every night and you see him lying there.'
The game was called off, and no makeup date was announced.
Wings' team physicians Tony Colucci and Doug Plagens were the first to reach him and worked on him for several minutes. Fischer was then taken back to the Wings' dressing room.
'Without question it was the scariest incident I've been involved in. I've witnessed things like that on TV in other sports. It's hard to describe the feeling. Helpless, I guess,' Wings captain Steve Yzerman said.
'Everybody was caught by surprise. We turned and saw him between the bench and the boards. Dr. Tony was the first one there. You see them working like that and you're obviously concerned. You fear for the guy's life.'
Fischer missed several days in training camp during September 2002 when he was found to have a heart abnormality.
The problem was found during an electrocardiogram as part of a routine battery of tests during preseason physicals. Fischer was later given a stress test, and passed.
Budd Lynch, the Wings' public address announcer, told the crowd approximately 40 minutes after play stopped that Fischer was 'alert and responsive.'
Fans responded with a loud cheer.
Wings left wing Brendan Shanahan said the incident was among the most traumatic he's ever been through in hockey.
'The players on our team, as well as on Nashville, were rattled,' Shanahan said. 'A lot of them played with him on the Czech team. None of the players felt that it was right to finish the game. Even though we got good news about Jiri, we didn't feel it was right to finish the game.'
Yzerman and Shanahan helped Fischer's fiancée across the ice, from the Zamboni entrance, to be with him.
'She was very worried, just like we all were,' Shanahan said. 'I've never gone through something like that before. I've never seen anything that scary.'