MONTREAL — There was relief when the call came in. The room full of Bruins, out at Sardelli Italian Steakhouse in Hollywood, Fla., for Tuukka Rask’s birthday Monday night, had gone quiet when it was learned that former teammate Rich Peverley had collapsed on the bench during a game between his Dallas Stars and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Patrice Bergeron said, “I felt sick to my stomach.”
He wasn’t alone. The Bruins found out through Twitter, and immediately texts were sent to Peverley and to Tyler Seguin, to anyone who might have information, trying to determine the extent of the situation, sending support and thoughts and prayers.
“I shot a bunch of texts to everybody,” Shawn Thornton said. “Actually, Segs called me right back and gave us the 411.
“You never want to see that, obviously, but he’s one of our good friends on this team. He’s one of the great guys.
“We were pretty worried. The room went pretty quiet, but he texted me back today and I think he seems to be doing OK. That’s a positive.”
They all simply wanted to know how Peverley, who was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in training camp and underwent surgery at the time, was doing.
“You have a terrible feeling in your gut and just hope that he’s OK,” Thornton said.
Said coach Claude Julien, “Certainly as much as it rocked the two teams that were there, I think it rocked a lot of our players, certainly players and coaches.”
Reports out of Dallas said that Peverley was in stable condition Tuesday after Monday’s “cardiac event.” He was undergoing tests to determine what caused the collapse, which resulted in a postponement of the game.
“We all love hockey. We all love playing the game, but when something like that happens, at the end of the day it’s a game,” said Chris Kelly, Peverley’s former linemate in Boston. “There’s more important things than hockey. Especially, someone’s health is far, far more important than a game. I thought, obviously, that was the right call.”
Peverley, who spent three seasons in Boston, including the 2010-11 Stanley Cup year, was a popular teammate, something that was clear in the dressing room Tuesday.
“He was a tremendous guy and we won a Stanley Cup together,” Bergeron said. “We definitely went to war with him and battled. He’s a true competitor, but also a great teammate.
“It’s like that for everyone. You get so close, you’re with them every day for so long, you build a friendship. It’s tough to see and hear stuff like that.”
Said Julien, “He was well-respected by his teammates and by the coaching staff. We liked Rich. He’s a good person. He was a good player. He cared about the game. He cared about his performance, to the point where sometimes he was too hard on himself.
“He’s a player — he’s an individual, more importantly, that we got to know. Our thoughts and our prayers were with him as much as his teammates that he has now had for him. Just for us it’s [good] to hear there’s a good ending at the end of this all. You always fear the worst.”
Fortunately, per NHL rules, there was a doctor close by, and he was able to shock Peverley’s heart back into rhythm at American Airlines Center.
“It’s scary,” said Kelly. “Regardless of the doctor tweeting he was OK, we’re still concerned for his well-being.
“We’re all hockey players, but we all have families, loved ones, and we know Rich’s wife, we know his kids, and being in that position, I feel for the family.”
Peverley was part of a team that was particularly tight-knit, a team that won a Cup together. Thornton recalled going to concerts with Peverley, having beers.
“We were good friends,” said Thornton. “This is just a game. That’s life. It’s a lot bigger than the game itself. For him and his family, just hoping he’s OK.”
That is why it hit the team so hard, why Peverley’s collapse left a room full of people in Florida frightened and searching for answers.
“You can see how much we care about Rich,” said Kelly. “When we heard something happened, the room was shaken. It changed the atmosphere of the night. We were all having a good time out at dinner and it got pretty quiet.”