Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell rescued Ontario senior struck by lightning

Chicago Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell rescued Millbrook, Ont., senior Trevor Clarke after he was hit by...

Chicago Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell rescued Millbrook, Ont., senior Trevor Clarke after he was hit by lightning while fishing June 8, 2011. (Reuters, Toronto Sun)

KEATON ROBBINS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

TORONTO - Trevor Clarke and his family are hoping lightning doesn't strike twice, for more than one reason.

It was around 2:30 p.m. on June 8, 2011. The Boston Bruins were down 2-1 in the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks, and Trevor was casting a line at his favourite spot, Pleasant Point on the Otonabee River, before Game 4 that night.

What happened next on the overcast summer afternoon is a little blurry to the 78-year-old Millbrook, Ont., man.

"Three of the guys I usually fish with at Pleasant Point were all leaving because a storm was just rolling in," said Clarke. "I thought, oh well, I'll have a couple more casts. Turns out it was one more because that's when lightning struck."

There was a big flash when the lightning hit a tree then the ground near where he was fishing, Clarke said. And after the strike he lost consciousness.

"I woke up lying in the mud, and water was running down the hill right onto my face," the retired Millbrook correctional engineer recalled. "Down comes a boat with a man and a nice-looking blonde in it, and all I could do was turn my head. The great big guy hollers at me, 'You need any help?' I said, 'I certainly do.'"

The lightning had struck with enough force to throw him down, breaking eight of his ribs and his collar bone in the process.

The typical lightning bolt has the strength of 10,000 amps, and it only takes 0.1 to 0.2 amps to kill a human according to Scientific American.

"The man got out of his boat, came over, picked me up and carried me at least 50 to 60 feet to my own van and sat me in the back seat," Clarke said. "As he put me down I said to him, 'My God, you're a strong guy, you should be a hockey player.' "

He said 'I am a hockey player.'

Turns out it was Bryan Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Orono, Ont., native is currently fourth in scoring with eight goals in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

But 2011 was a different story.

Bickell, and his then eighth-ranked Chicago Blackhawks had been eliminated by their rivals from Vancouver in an incredible seven-game series.

The 6-foot-4, 233-lb. power forward is an avid fisherman and frequently fishes at Pleasant Point, where he had come to Clarke's rescue.

"I didn't get home until six o'clock that night, and I don't remember driving myself home. So somewhere in between there I lost three hours," Clarke said. "I came home completely covered in mud, changed into clean clothes and I sat in my chair for two days."

Clarke said he was in so much pain he could barely move, but didn't seek treatment because he wanted to be in the comfort of his own home to watch Game 5 of the Cup finals.

After two days he couldn't stand the pain any longer and called an ambulance.

"This is where the story gets really weird," he said. "There were two ambulance attendants, male and female, and they put me into the back."

The male administered to Clarke, asked what happened, and Clarke proceeded to tell him about the heroics of Bickell.

"No, no this doesn't sound right," the attendant told Clarke. "Bryan Bickell and I are very close friends and we were out on the river that day."

Clarke said the attendant struggled to believe his story after that.

It turns out, Bryan and his wife left from Little Lake in Peterborough to meet up with the attendant and his girlfriend, and on the way down the river, Bickell saved Clarke.

Joe Clarke, Trevor's youngest son, said he was so concerned about his dad's safety when he initially heard about the accident, that he paid no attention to who saved him.

"I've wondered a few times (about whether his father would have died that day had Bickell not saved him) but the fact that he has almost fully recovered makes me think his body is pretty tough," Joe said. "It was an impressive dark purple (bruise) from the side of his head to his hip."

Joe said his family tried to get a hold of Bickell to thank him for saving his dad.

"They sent him a thank-you card, to which he did not reply," Joe said.

And Joe's nephew Aaron, who plays in the East Coast Hockey League, was also asked to reach out to the NHL but there has been nowresponse.

The response -- or lack thereof -- is an accurate reflection of Bickell's success so far in the Hawks deep playoff run. A quiet, hard-working small-town guy who just-so-happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Ashley Bickell, Bryan's sister, said her family didn't find out about it until they received the card from the Clarkes.

"That's just my brother in a nutshell, he's just a very chilled-out guy," Amanda said. "'Oh ya, just saved a guy's life, or just signed a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, no big deal.'"

Bryan's father Bill Bickell agreed with Amanda.

"He really down-played it to be honest," Bill said. "He wanted to keep it low key and talked to me a little bit about it. I almost completely forgot about it."

Both families thought it was pretty funny that it took so long for the story to be heard.

"We found humour in three aspects of the story, that a 78-year-old man with eight broken ribs drove himself home, that he delayed getting treatment to see the next hockey game and that he stopped smoking for about two years after the incident," Joe said.

Joe also said he just recently found out his dad has resumed having an occasional cigar for celebrations.

And if Bickell and the 'Hawks can stop the Bruins from winning their second Stanley Cup in three years, it just may be enough cause for a celebratory cigar for Trevor and his family.

"We're a hockey-loving family," Joe said. "And we're now all lifelong Bryan Bickell fans."


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