In his first public comments since suffering a cardiac episode during a game earlier this month, St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said he still needs to evaluate his hockey future, but that he now feels "pretty normal, and that is a good thing."
St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong said that Bouwmeester will not play in the rest of the regular season or in the playoffs for the Blues, but will be around the team. Bouwmeester, 36, becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season. Armstrong said he will continue talks with the defenseman over the summer.
"The outreach and support people have shown has been pretty overwhelming," Bouwmeester said in a press conference on Wednesday. "Where this took place and the people that were around at the time, as well as my dad being there on the trip, there were a lot of things that were absolute best case scenario."
The Blues were hosting their annual Dad's Trip in Anaheim on Feb. 11 when Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench in a game against the Ducks. The rest of the game was postponed. Doctors used a defibrillator to revive Bouwmeester at the Honda Center before he was transported to the hospital. Bouwmeester underwent an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator procedure, which helps restore the heart's normal rhythm.
"It all just came pretty suddenly," Bouwmeester said. "Everything up to that point was normal. I hadn't been sick, or had much going on. It was completely out of the blue."
Bouwmeester said he regained consciousness by the time he got to the ambulance.
"I didn't know what had happened," Bouwmeester said. "But I could talk and knew what was going on by that time."
Bouwmeester has not watched video of the incident, and said being in the hospital was nice because he was in his "own little bubble." He said doctors are still trying to "pin down" exactly what happened.
"It was a scary thing," Bouwmeester said. "But everything has been going pretty good lately."
Bouwmeester said he has some restrictions, but has been told by doctors he can "still live a pretty normal life."
The NHL has a lengthy list of emergency medical standards, including a requirement that at least two doctors must be in attendance for every game, and one must be within 50 feet of the bench. A defibrillator must also be available, as well as a triage room and ambulances on call.
In his 17th NHL season, Bouwmeester ranks second among active defensemen with 1,241 career games played -- trailing only Zdeno Chara (1,541) -- and is fourth among all active players, behind Patrick Marleau (1,709) and Joe Thornton (1,622), as well as Chara.
Bouwmeester, a first-round pick of the Florida Panthers, held one of the longest ironman streaks in NHL history with 737 consecutive regular-season games played until a lower-body injury in 2014. He missed time in 2015-16 with a concussion, and a hip injury ended his 2017-18 season. He played all but four games last season, though, and hasn't missed a game this season.
In April 2019, the Blues signed Bouwmeester to a one-year, $3.25 million deal for this season.
The reigning Stanley Cup champion Blues are in first place in the Central Division heading into the final quarter of the season.