Cold Hard Rants: Quit Playing Games with Gustavsson’s Heart

Posted by Drew Mindell in Cold Hard Rants on December 16, 2009 — 1 Comment

While I am not certain if Backstreet is back or not, one thing I do know for sure, is that The Monster, Jonas Gustavsson is close to returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For those of you who may have forgotten, Gustavsson, the highly touted rookie goaltender and perceived goal-tending saviour of the Leafs, is soon to be returning to game action mere days after undergoing a heart ablation, performed to regulate abnormal heart rhythms. This is the second ablation he has undergone in the past three months, the first time being after he passed out during training camp, and the second time after exiting a game versus the Montreal Canadians with an elevated heart rate. The question, simply, is it too soon for him to return?

I don’t believe that the Leafs training staff and medical professionals would dare return a player before he is perfectly healthy, and thus into a life threatening situation, however, I can’t help wonder about the psychological effects these two procedures have had on Gustavsson. For a twenty five year old to have to undergo one heart procedure is rare, never mind two in three months. Now, as the second procedure is declared a success, I can’t help but wonder if Gustavsson really feels “healed”.

As I mentioned, Gustavsson has the weight of the most desperate hockey fan base on his shoulders. He is also twenty five years of age. As the media is wont to do, especially when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gustavsson, upon his signing with the Leafs, was declared a key to the puzzle to returning the Leafs to Stanley Cup glory. To say that the expectations heaped upon him were unfair would be an understatement. Anyone, least of all a twenty five year old, would feel the pressure to return to the Leafs ASAP. But, I can’t help but wonder if Gustavsson really feels “healed”.

I can’t help it, but when I think of this issue with Gustavsson, my mind immediately takes me back to Detroit, Michigan on November 21, 2005. I can still picture it in my mind, when in the middle of a shift, streams of Detroit Red Wings began to flee the bench. It was the textbook example of too many men on the ice, but it was for good reason, as they were fleeing to give medical personnel room to ply their trade, because Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer had collapsed and was in cardiac arrest.

Fischer too was 25 years old.

Fischer too was aware of the slight abnormality to his heart, it having been diagnosed three years earlier.

Recently, hockey has had a far too long list of heart related tragedies. Ex-NHL player Sergei Zholtok died shortly after leaving the ice during a game in Latvia. Micky Renaud, captain of the Windsor Spitfires, died in 2008 from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Most vividly (a little over a year ago), the image is still clear of New York Rangers first round draft pick Alexei Cherepanov being carried of the bench and subsequently dying while playing in Russia. Tragically, these names are but a few on the list of heart related hockey deaths.

The case of Jiri Fischer goes to show the benefit (and to some degree, luck) in having CPR trained professionals and defibrillator equipment immediately available. Had he not received immediate attention, he too would have been a casualty on this list. My goal is not to terrify or tell Jonas Gustavsson not play hockey anymore. I am sure, more than anyone, he is well aware of the risks. All I know is that when it was first announced that he would be under going another procedure to fix his heart ailment, all of us involved in the Radio Show predicted, on the air, that Gustavsson would be out for a lengthier period of time, if not the rest of the season. If I was Gustavsson, I would take the lyrics of the Backstreet Boys to heart, and he should ensure that no one is playing games with his heart.

For, I am Drew Mindell.

Do I have some valid points, or am I engaging in fear mongering ? Let’s hear from you in the comments.

Remember to listen to the Illegal radio show every Wednesday night on 92.9 KICK FM in Winnipeg or by clicking the Illegal Curve Radio link in the top right corner.

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One response to “Cold Hard Rants: Quit Playing Games with Gustavsson’s Heart”

  1. Cards on Ice says:

    I don’t think it is an issue – with the recent history of heart problems, the Leafs medical staff wouldn’t be letting him back anywhere near the ice if there was an issue.

    If I question anything, how does Gustavsson only find out about this when he is 25 and in North America? After Cherepanov died, there was much ado about KHL medical practices, and they instituted cardiac screening – do Swedish Elite teams not have similar practices in place? And if not, are they considering it with the news that they had someone with a heart condition suiting up the last few years.

    The NHL’s basic screening at the draft combine catches heart conditions, as shown by David Carle’s decision to retire.

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