Rec league hockey player calls for safety awareness after teammate has heart attack on ice

The leader of a Chatham, Ont. recreational hockey league says older players should be better prepared for possible on-ice emergencies, after a teammate suffered a heart attack during a game. 

Chris Deline plays hockey on Saturday nights with a group of other older men. Games typically only last about 90 minutes, with players skating from 10:30 p.m. until midnight.

During the team's last game before Christmas, one of Deline's teammate's, Guy Bruyere, found himself feeling uncomfortable. Deciding to skate off the ice and take a break, Bruyere quickly found that his discomfort didn't dissipate, even though he was no longer exerting himself. 

After speaking with Bruyere, another player's wife, called 911.

"After a while, it's like my chest was so tight, so sore, my breathing was hard, [I was] sweating like you wouldn't believe," said Bruyere. "I'd be freezing and [at the] same time, [I was] sweating."

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While the team waited for the ambulance to arrive, Bruyere's teammates administered CPR and used a defibrillator. The team also found contact information for Bruyere's wife in his phone, and were able to inform her about her husband's condition. 

"We're in Chatham, and when the ambulance guys came, they said if it's serious, they're going to take him to Windsor," said Deline. "I wanted to make sure Guy's wife knew, because he wasn't going to be home that night."

Deline considers the before-Christmas incident a wake up call, especially since a similar incident happened eight years ago. 

"One of the things that they learned from the last time around was where the defibrillator at," said Deline.

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According to Deline, it can be difficult to find a defibrillator, especially in some hockey arenas where sometimes grey defibrillator boxes blend into grey walls.

Since Bruyere's heart attack, Deline said he's taking steps to better protect players in his league. 

"We've made up a contact list — an emergency contact list — so if something happens to somebody, at least we can call home," said Deline. 

Deline has also started making sure that players going to locker rooms during games are accompanied by someone else. 

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"I just want the message out there just to be prepared," said Deline. "If you go to a workplace, you have contact lists, you know where the [defibrillators] are, someone's got CPR training. But when you go to play beer league hockey, rec hockey, especially late at night, are all the teams prepared?"

Following his heart attack, Bruyere said he wants other rec league players to be prepared as well.

"Better be safe than sorry," he said. "When you have to start to be sorry, it's sometimes too late."