“It’s something you don’t think about if you don’t have to deal with it.”
Jay Bouwmeester was talking about the special technologies that have been put in place by the NHL that helped save his life, but he could have been talking about anything having to do with the game right now. In case you were wondering, he’s not retiring today.
As Bouwmeester took questions from the St. Louis media on Wednesday afternoon for the first time since the cardiac incident, a lot was contemplated by him as he tried to give answers to things that weren’t just about the sport of hockey, but life and death. The incident that happened came during a game in Anaheim where Bouwmeester collapsed after a shift on the ice. According to officials, Bouwmeester’s heart stopped, thus having to be shocked back to life.
Bouwmeester on helping staff: "That side of things is different. When you're playing, you're still a player, you're narrow minded. But yeah, if there's anything anyone wants to talk about - players, coaches - as long as you're here, you always want to be a part of that" #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 26, 2020
He underwent a procedure for a device called an Implantable Cardioverter Debrillator to be placed inside his chest, which can send a small or large shock to kick the heart back into rhythm. But while some, including myself, figured today’s press conference would be Bouwmeester announcing his retirement, that wasn’t the case. He’s played over 1,200 NHL games and just won a Stanley Cup, but he doesn’t want to call it quits just yet. Not now at least. He wants time and answers to his medical questions.
Here’s the thing that passed my head up. Bouwmeester doesn’t like being at the center of attention. For the entire 20 minute interview, he seemed uncomfortable answering questions and trying to give perspective on the incident, his career, and his future. When it does happen, Bouwmeester retiring, I think he will be much more subtle. There will be no press conference, just a note from him to the fans via Twitter and the Blues. Retiring in season is an attention-grabber for sure, so he’s not doing that.
What is he doing? He is doing well, and offered a few answers amid a flurry of questions. Being a sturdy defenseman, Bouwmeester is used to having endless shots fired at him, so he handled them all like a pro. Here’s a few things he offered:
*He thanked the Blues and Ducks training staffs first off. They saved his life.
*He noted that his dad being there was a game-changer, because he helped inform the rest of the family, including Bouwmeester’s wife and kids.
*He’s not thinking about hockey right now or he hasn’t for a couple weeks, but there will be a time when he determines his future.
*There were no indications he was about to experience a cardiac event as he skated off the ice. It just happened “out of the blue.”
*He jokingly admitted that he is NOT considering coaching during his time off the ice.
Bouwmeester: "It's tough, but hockey hasn't really been at the front of my mind the last couple of weeks. I feel pretty good, so you can compare it to another injury were you're just not playing. But you have to remind yourself why you're not playing. It puts it in perspective."— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 26, 2020
*Bouwmeester was amazed at the way he was feeling, noting that he didn’t really feel like what happened to him actually occurred. “You have to remind yourself that it happened.” He noted how he was fine, then out of the blue it happened, and then he felt fine in a couple more days.
*When asked if there was anything more he wanted to accomplish in his career, Bouwmeester said no, there wasn’t. Of course another Stanley Cup would be nice.
I think we will know more this summer, when the temperatures rise. Today was simply a chance for the media to see him and ask him a few things. A chance for stories to be written, such as this one. He seemed more nervous about answering the question correctly than the heart condition that almost took his life a few weeks ago. He was cool, super calm, and collected.
When it comes to hockey and real life, Bouwmeester is taking it one day at a time, as he’s still trying to figure out why it happened instead of wondering if he will play again. Once again, the history of this happening to players younger than Bouwmeester suggests that NHL hockey is out of his future, but maybe Bouwmeester isn’t ready to officially call it. Now, if you put Javier Bardem from “No Country for Old Men” in front of him asking him to call it, he might. For the time being, he’s holding it close to his chest, along with the ICD.
While a comeback would be remarkable, I will lean on the theory that Bouwmeester didn’t want to take attention away from the team with an in-season announcement.
We’ll get answers later. They always come, sooner or later. For now, Bouwmeester is getting used to life after near-death, and his medical team will continue to try and determine why he had this incident.
I’d expect to see him around the team soon enough, smiling and living like someone who outsmarted death most certainly would.