There are risks to playing an intense, vigorous sport like ice hockey and for 40-and-older weekend warriors, near the top of the list is the possibility of a heart attack.
The potential health dangers of rec hockey came into the spotlight after 49-year-old Rob Macdonald suffered a heart attack in one of the dressings rooms at the Pitt Meadows Arena complex on Jan. 17.
Macdonald was playing an oldtimers league hockey game with the Tri City Chiefs at Pitt Meadows Arena just before 11 p.m. on Jan. 17, when he went into cardiac arrest. But neither Macdonald nor any of his teammates realized it was happening.
It was during the final minutes of the third period when the father of three started to feel sick.
“I was playing a hockey game like I normally do. In the last bit of the final period, I was just having troubles catching my breath after a shift,” Macdonald said from his home in Cloverdale.
Macdonald went into his team’s dressing room and managed to shower, but then went into cardiac arrrest.
Members of his team, the Tri-City Chiefs, called 911 and Bruce Moffat from the opposing Maple Ridge Chiefs entered the room and provided CPR for two minutes.
He then instructed others to retrieve an automated external defibrillator (AED), located in the middle of the facility. However, the device was not working.
Teammates raced to find a second defibrillator, located in a different part of the arena.
An employee at the facility who was cleaning an empty dressing room noticed that the defibrillator in the arena’s Volkswagen rink was missing and also rushed to help.
The rink employee provided some CPR. The paramedic provided CPR and worked the second defibrillator until ambulance and Pitt Meadows firefighters arrived.
Macdonald is expected to make a full recovery.
In Langley rinks where recreational men’s hockey is played, defibrillators are charged, in place, and ready for use, say local managers.
At the Langley Sportsplex, during Adult Safe Hockey League (ASHL) games held at Canlan Ice Sports Langley Twin Rinks, and at the Langley Events Centre, the defibrillators have yet to be used.
“We have three (defibrillators),” said Jeff Bandura, the ASHL manager at Langley Twin Rinks. “They are tested every day. We just went through our AED first-aid course, and the AED (training) is every year… everybody has to be re-certified.”
Bandura said the batteries of the defibrillators, positioned in three easily accessible areas inside the facility, are checked daily.
“They have the flashing green lights,” Bandura said. “If the green lights are not flashing, we’ve been instructed to call MediQuest and those are the guys who take care of the AEDs.”
Bandura said Twin Rinks is centrally located, an estimated six minute drive to and from Langley Memorial Hospital, and the response time is “very good” for paramedics and firefighters to get to the rink.
“We’ll do whatever we can to help keep these people breathing, for sure,” Bandura said.
At the Langley Sportsplex, general manager Bud Pope said the rink has had a defibrillator on site, located in the main lobby, for the past decade.
“Our staff all has first-aid training with ‘defib’ training in it,” Pope said. “It’s one of those things where, you open up the box and it tells you what to do.”
Pope spoke about the risks associated with ‘beer league’ hockey. “Weekend warriors are the highest risks,” he said. “They don’t do much else and they go out and play hockey. It’s such a high exertion level with short bursts.”
Langley’s newest and largest hockey facility, the Langley Events Centre, hosts recreational hockey games.
General manager Derek Cooke said between the LEC’s main building and Fieldhouse, there are three defibrillators.
“There are two first aid rooms here in the main building, and there’s a defibrillator on the wall outside of each one of those rooms and same thing in our second building out back (Fieldhouse),” Cooke said.
Cooke used one in his former career in the RCMP and says “they’re basically idiot proof.”
“But in the stress of the moment, they may not be so idiot proof,” he added.
– files from Black Press