CPR, AED saves NHL player’s life

NHL hockey player Brett MacLean flew down the ice at a summer pick-up game in Owen Sound. The Phoenix Coyote forward lifted weights earlier in the day, but as a professional athlete, multiple workouts were nothing new. 

Forty minutes into the game, Brett skated down the wing, spotted an open teammate, made a pass and then collapsed. At 23-years-old and with no history of heart disease, he didn’t fit the profile of someone who would suffer cardiac arrest. But that’s exactly what happened that July evening.

Two players threw off their helmets and gloves and immediately started CPR. As they tried to revive Brett, a fan in the stands also rushed down to the ice.

A fire fighter watching his son play, he retrieved the arena’s AED and called 9-1-1. Together, the players and fan performed CPR and administered a shock with the AED until an ambulance arrived.  Without their quick action, Brett would have certainly died.

Tests were inconclusive, but something had gone awry with the electrical impulses of Brett’s heart, and he had an ICD (implantable cardiac defibrillator) inserted. This small electronic device will monitor his heart and provide a small electrical shock if an abnormal rhythm is detected again.

“I was lucky, the right people were there at the right time,” said Brett. “It’s great that there was an AED there, but the fact that someone knew how to use it…that’s a big part of why I’m still here.”  

Even before he was released from hospital, Brett was thinking of ways to spread the Foundation’s message and the importance of CPR and AED training. From his hospital bed, Brett and a long-time friend created an annual ball hockey tournament and weeks later, ten ball hockey teams competed in “Bar Down for Heart and Stroke,” raising both funds and awareness.

Since then, Brett’s recovery has been remarkable. Though playing professional hockey again is unlikely, doctors assured him he can be active again, which means he can resume jogging, swimming, cycling and playing tennis. CPR/AED training is also high on his “to-do” list.

“The AED saved my life, but it’s important to be trained,” said Brett. “You never know when you might need it. Look at me, a 23-year-old professional athlete… it could happen to anyone, anywhere.”