Wings get past heartstopping ordeal

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

DETROIT -- Pain is part of their life, their job description, their day-to-day survival.

Inflict it. Try to avoid it. Deal with it.

But try dealing with this. Try sitting on the same bench where the frightening trauma of a valued teammate not only stopped a game, but a strapping, 25-year-old athlete's heart.

That was the challenge facing the Detroit Red Wings last night, 48 hours after the frightening episode that nearly took defenceman Jiri Fischer's life.

After he had scored the winning goal in the Wings' 7-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche, Brendan Shanahan returned to the home bench at Joe Louis Arena.

And when he sat down, he couldn't help but think of how he was mere inches to the right of where Fischer collapsed before going into heart-failing convulsions.

"I thought about it a couple of times," Shanahan said outside the Wings locker room. "When you are sitting right in that spot and realize what was happening 48 hours earlier.

"When I was going out on the ice for warmup and stepping over the area that could have been the area where he died. You just try to get your focus back on hockey. It's not easy."

Shanahan said the Red Wings were buoyed considerably by news earlier in the day that Fischer had been released from hospital and was resting comfortably.

Several players spoke with the steady Czech defenceman, who has been with the Red Wings since 1999.

"The uncertainty of it put a lot of fear in us," centre Kris Draper said. "But us being able to see him, visit him and hear him in good spirits was very good therapy for us.

"You're never not thinking about it though. We were literally watching one of our teammates, one of our friends, fighting for his life - that's the state Fisch was in."

This wasn't a slapshot to the shins or a shot to the kidneys. To a man, the Red Wings talked about how the incident that forced postponement of Monday's game against the Nashville Predators was a shot of reality.

"Jiri was an inspiration, it's going to be that way the rest of the year," goalie Manny Legace said. "He's in our hearts."

Fischer was on the mind of the Thanksgiving Eve crowd at the Joe. The team set up a four-by-eight foot get well card in the concourse for fans to sign and by puck drop, both sides were full.

No one knows for certain what the future holds for the player who was as much of a rock in the team's dressing room as on the blue line. General manager Ken Holland suggested it will be a "minimum of four to six weeks with no physical activity."

After reviving Fischer with a defibrillator in those anxious moments on Monday, doctors had indicated that he may have been afflicted with a racing heartbeat or heart flutter.

All heart ailments are not created equal, of course, which will lead to much speculation. There also will be liability issues to solve for both the Red Wings and the NHL.

So will he retire? Or will he be like Tedy Bruschi, the New England Patriots linebacker who returned to the NFL midway through this season after suffering a stroke?

For now, the players are content in knowing their teammate is on the mend.

"We've got a proud bunch of guys," coach Mike Babcock said, across the dressing room from the stall where Fischer's equipment still hangs. "We've got veteran guys who know what hockey's all about and what family's all about it."

And a little more appreciation for life, as well.


Videos

Photos