Don Van Massenhoven's career as a police officer did not prepare him for what he saw on the Detroit Red Wings bench Monday night.
"It still shook me up because it was the last place you would expect to see something like that," the veteran NHL referee from Strathroy said yesterday from Fort Lauderdale, where he'll work tonight's game between the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils.
"When you're on the police force and you get sent to an accident or some sort of scene, you are prepared for it more. I have seen people die. But you never expect to see that scene in a hockey game."
Van Massenhoven was working the game at Joe Louis Arena between the Red Wings and Nashville Predators when Detroit defenceman Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench during the first period.
The 25-year-old's heart stopped and it was several minutes before team doctors and medical staff revived him with CPR and a defibrillator.
The Wings said yesterday Fischer was doing well in hospital. There was no word on what triggered his collapse.
"Everything appears to be well right now. All his tests are coming back within normal limits," said team doctor Tony Colucci, whom Van Massenhoven credits with saving Fischer's life.
"Tony Colucci came running down the corridor (to the bench) and had his jacket off. He already knew he was going to work. He didn't even hesitate. He knew what he had to do," said Van Massenhoven.
Before joining the NHL, he was with the Ontario Provincial Police for 10 years and was a registered first aid and CPR instructor.
"I just think everybody handled everything very well," he said. "The doctor was there in seconds and the trainers were checking for a pulse and they were working on him quickly when they realized there was no pulse.
"It was the real thing at that point. They knew it was pretty serious. They weren't wasting any time. They made the difference for him. With the difficulty I saw him in, there's no doubt in my mind they saved his life."
Van Massenhoven said it took a few seconds for the officials to stop play on the ice because "nobody really knew what was going on.
"The (Detroit) players were yelling at us, you get yelled at sometimes during the game so you learn to tune things out. But it was excellent how the players jumped on the ice to get our attention."
Van Massenhoven said a hush quickly fell over the 20,000-plus fans.
"I've never heard an arena that quiet before. They knew something serious was going on. There was shock and disbelief. They were working on him pretty steady and he wasn't responding initially to anything. You could see a lot of fear on a lot of people's faces."
He said the players and game officials agreed with the league's eventual decision not to continue.
"I don't think there was anyone who wasn't happy with that decision. There was some thought given to the fans, but when the announcement came that the game was cancelled, people just started to filter out. There certainly wasn't a negative reaction.
"Everybody there said it was the right thing to do."
Van Massenhoven said the NHL officiating department was in contact with the crew yesterday. He'd worked the game with referee Dan O'Halloran and linesmen Mark Pare and Mark Wheler.
"The league was very good with us. They've made sure all the guys are OK. It's a good support network, actually."
Van Massenhoven said Fischer was in the best possible place when the incident took place.
"I've always said if you were ever going to be in trouble, the hockey arena or any professional sports arena is the about the best place to do it because of the kind of people they have -- all the top-notch medical people.
"To me, everybody did everything they had to do and they did it right. It really is an amazing result."