Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton was on his way home from KeyBank Center Tuesday night when he got a text from defenseman Colin Miller asking if he had talked to anyone connected to the St. Louis Blues.
Hutton had no idea what Miller was talking about, so Miller had to provide Hutton with the news: Former teammate Jay Bouwmeester had collapsed on the bench in Anaheim and was taken from Honda Center on a stretcher to a hospital.
Hutton immediately texted Blues defenseman Colton Parayko, who is Bouwmeester's defense partner. The Blues' game against the Anaheim Ducks had been postponed and players were awaiting word on Bouwmeester's condition.
"He filled me in a little bit and at that point they still didn't know," Hutton said of Parayko after practice Wednesday. "Colton was shook up at the time and that's all he had said. It was obviously pretty scary stuff."
Bouwmeester's issues came less than eight minutes into the game due to what the Blues termed a "cardiac event." Players scrambled to get attention of athletic trainers and doctors and the game was immediately stopped. It will be made up at a later date.
Jay Bouwmeester collapses on the Blues bench. Game has been delayed pic.twitter.com/wOJkAFANCT
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 12, 2020
Bouwmeester, 36, is the senior member of the Blues. After captain Alex Pietrangelo hoisted the Stanley Cup following the Game 7 victory last June in Boston, the first player he handed the Cup to was Bouwmeester, who had played 1,184 regular-season games to that point.
"As a friend too, he's just the ultimate pro," said Hutton, who played two seasons with the Blues from 2016-18. "He takes unbelievable care of himself and obviously that shows. You see the guy getting the Cup first and that's kind of the ultimate respect in hockey."
This situation, of course, goes far beyond hockey.
"We spent time at their house with their kids," Hutton said. "He's got three little girls at home and we'd go over all the time for dinners and you start thinking the big picture, right? Hockey's just a sport and there's a lot more to life than that.
"Especially the way it happened. Right on the bench. There's nothing going on. It happened. It's obviously really, really scary stuff."
Thursday's game against Columbus will be 2000s Night, with the Sabres honoring alumni from the decade that included the 2006 and 2007 Eastern Conference finalists. Former owner Tom Golisano and managing partners Larry Quinn and Dan DiPofi will be on hand and the roster of players scheduled to appear in a pregame ceremony is highlighted by Daniel Briere, Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville, Brian Campbell and Paul Gaustad.
Gaustad was at practice Wednesday to see Hutton, his former teammate for three years in Nashville.
The Blue Jackets have dealt with a slew of injuries this season and they hit town dealing with two more big ones. All-Star defenseman Seth Jones is out for 8-10 weeks – certainly the rest of the regular season – and will need surgery for a sprain and hairline fracture in his ankle, and the team announced Wednesday morning that winger Cam Atkinson will miss two to three weeks due to a sprained ankle.
Jones, who led the team in ice time with an average of 25:17 per game, was injured in Saturday's game against Colorado after crashing into the side of the net. But he returned to the game and scored a power-play goal, as it turned out, while playing on the fractured ankle.
Columbus is 19-3-6 in its last 28 games, but its offense has struggled of late and its 2-1 overtime loss here on Feb. 1 was symptomatic of that. The Jackets have scored just one goal four times in their past six games, including Monday's 2-1 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
Their only goal in that game was a second-period tally by Oliver Bjorkstrand and that ended a string of 10 consecutive periods without an even-strength tally.
The Blue Jackets have also been struggling for weeks on the power play. They're last in the NHL since Dec. 1 at 12.5% and 26th for the season at 16.6%. Buffalo is 22nd at 18.8%.
Columbus is leading the Eastern Conference wild-card standings with 70 points and is one point ahead of Philadelphia, three ahead of Carolina and four up on Florida. The Sabres, who are 12 points back, are actually closer to third place in the Atlantic Division as they are 10 points behind Toronto.