For Kingston-born Rich Peverley, hockey has always been a way of life. But on March 10, 2014, the life he knew changed forever.
“(Tyler) Seguin was taking the faceoff, I was beside Jamie (Benn) in our zone on the right side of the goalie,” Rich Peverly reflected during a Zoom call from his Guelph, ON home.
You may have seen the below meme circulating through your social media feeds over the years — that’s Rich Peverley.
The Stanely Cup-winning forward was playing for the Dallas Stars that season. He remembers going towards his team’s blue-line after the faceoff, and then to the bench. That was the last shift of professional hockey he’d ever play.
“I put my head on my arms because I didn’t feel right. I put my head down and that was it,” he said.
Peverley suffered a sudden cardiac incident that day.
“The aftermath was hard for me,” he said. “But what people had to live through and see that, you know, I was sitting beside Jamie Benn and fell on his legs.”
“Alex Chiasson was on the other side. These guys — that’s a traumatic event happening in front of your eyes. I don’t know how I would be if I saw that.”
Silver lining reset
While he hasn’t played professionally since that night, Peverly does still lace up his skates in the Guelph area men’s leagues and plays soccer — something he hadn’t gotten the chance to during his hockey career, a silver lining to his unfortunate set of circumstances.
“I live my life now, and I’m lucky I had some fantastic doctors, and I live my life the way I want to live my life,” he said.
Now, through the help of businesses in the Guelph, Ont. and Dallas, Texas areas, Peverley has been able to launch ‘PevsProtects,’ an initiative that raises money to purchase automated external defibrillators or AEDs, as well as raising funds and awareness for CPR training.
“Things happen sometimes,” he said. “but I wanted to find a way to give back to the people who supported my family and I during a really tough time.”
Since the incident in 2014, Peverley said dozens of people have reached out to share similar stories and offer words of wisdom. But one thing was obvious to him: more needed to be done.
“We connected with the Heart and Stroke foundation here in Canada, and the American Heart association out of Dallas,” Peverley said. “We just tried to give back and raise as much money as we could to help those foundations and support the different initiatives that have evolved over time.”
Peverley adds that, through his support, children in area schools have been trained on defibrillators, with many AEDs being donated in the process.
“There were children in schools with heart conditions, and lots of the teachers didn’t know how to use (the AED).” he said.