WILMINGTON, MASS -- As the Boston Bruins began their practice Thursday at Ristuccia Arena, they heard a commotion in the stands and quickly realized a fan was in some sort of medical trouble as fellow fans rushed to help. What they did not realize was that a male Bruins fan, reportedly in his mid-30s, had suffered what an off-duty Littelton, Mass. firefighter and Concord, Mass dispatcher termed a "major cardiac episode" that had him non-responsive and close to death.
Thankfully, that off-duty firefighter and dispatcher, Terry Gardner, was sitting a few rows in front of the fan and became a first responder. Gardner rushed into action, performing CPR and calling for a defibrillator. He was able to resuscitate the man, who he said was responsive before being carried out on a stretcher and rushed to a local hospital.
According to rink staff members, the stricken fan was in stable condition as of 1 p.m. ET on Thursday.
"I'm not a doctor but without any type of intervention, he most likely would be dead," Gardner told the media after practice. "By the time he was leaving, he appeared to be responsive slightly -- wasn't verbal -- but he appeared to be responsive and breathing again."
For Gardner, it was a first time performing his job off-duty, but he was happy to help and hopefully save a life.
"I don't think I've ever done it like that," he said. "I've only done it working. A little bit different because when you’re on the ambulance you kind of know what you're going into and you have a second to prepare. With that, it's more split-second, you have to get right into work mode."
On the job or not, it was just another reason the Bruins -- who stopped practice and left the ice during the incident -- realize who the real heroes are. Forward Gregory Campbell was stunned and humbled by the event.
"That's obviously very disturbing and we're all hopeful that he makes a solid recovery," a visibly shaken Campbell said. "It was very humbling to see somebody in that condition and we're very thankful that there were people that responded extremely quick and hopefully helped the gentleman out. That definitely puts things in perspective and we realize how fragile life is and how lucky we are to have our health.
It takes heroic people to do what they do and it's a certain type of person that can act under pressure like that, and it's not pressure that we deal with on a daily basis, it's life or death. That's the most important pressure to act under and for how brave they are I have an appreciation for that."