ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Chris Pronger had his very own close call in the same building where Jiri Fischer nearly lost his life.
Seven seasons back, Pronger, then with the St. Louis Blues, was struck in the chest by a shot off the stick of Dmitri Mironov at the exact moment his heart was between beats.
After seeing images of Fischer collapse on the Detroit Red Wings bench Monday night when his heart stopped, Pronger reflected on the night he collapsed on the ice at Joe Louis Arena.
"It hit me right on the heart," said Pronger, whose Oilers take on the Minnesota Wild tonight.
"I guess my heart felt like it didn't need to beat that one time. It skipped that one beat and I kind of felt myself cover the puck up. I just remember covering the puck up on the dot in our end and waking up in the middle of the ice staring up wondering how I got there.
"Watching the video you see me sort of stumble to try and get to the bench and collapse. It was obviously very scary because you don't know what's going on."
Pronger, whose parents were in the stands watching the playoff game, spent that night in the hospital and then underwent a series of tests with a heart specialist.
Former Oiler Kelly Buchberger relayed a story at practice yesterday about a Tier II junior teammate in Melville, Sask., who crashed headfirst into a goalpost and was luckily revived on the ice.
Oilers defenceman Cory Cross lost friend and former University of Alberta teammate Mark Goodkey to a freak accident in a pickup game when he was struck in the neck by a deflected puck.
Craig MacTavish was a witness to another frightening moment in the NHL's past. During the 1982-83 season, Boston Bruins teammate Normand Leveille was going through enough distress on the bench that the trainer immediately ushered him to the dressing room. Not knowing exactly what was happening, the Bruins carried on while Leveille suffered a devastating aneurysm that not only abruptly ended his career but left him physically disabled.
"The hockey world is a close-knit community and when you see something like that it's very scary," said MacTavish of the Fischer incident. "It was very emotionally draining and a very sombre mood. For all the players in here, it was tough to focus on the game when you see someone who it looks like is in a battle for his life."
Radek Dvorak and Ales Hemsky have both played with Fischer at various times, including last year's world championship in Vienna.
They were shocked when they saw TV images of medical staff working on Fischer as they prepared for their game against the Sharks Monday.
"It was a shock for everybody. The main thing is he's fine and he's stable and that's all that matters right now," said Dvorak.
The Oilers take their own precautions against such incidents. Members of the training staff are instructed on the use of an emergency defibrillator before every season and during games, chief physician Dr. David Reid sits by the bench.
Those devices, noted Lowe, provide a 60% better success for victims than CPR alone. At the Zamboni entrance, emergency medical technicians are armed with defibrillators but even well-equipped and well-trained personnel can't always make the difference.
"Athletes are highly tuned individuals but most of our deaths in sports are because of an irregular heartrate that is never picked up," said Oilers head medical trainer Ken Lowe, who added that goalie Jussi Markkanen had an irregular heartbeat as an 18-year-old while serving in the Finnish military.
"That's why you look back in their history. If you don't pick it up, they are there and they're a walking time bomb."