Even in the midst of the intensity of the WHL playoffs, there are moments when we are reminded that hockey is, after all, just a game.
Wednesday night was one of those moments.
First star Jayce Hawryluk quickly went from celebrating his brilliant hat-trick performance in the Brandon Wheat Kings’ 5-4 comeback victory over the Regina Pats to being taken to the hospital after suddenly feeling light-headed and short of breath — warning signs to be taken seriously given the recent collapse of Dallas Stars forward Rich Peverley.
The Wheat Kings staff immediately called for help and Hawryluk was quickly in the capable hands of the team doctor and taken to hospital for further treatment, tests and overnight observation.
The good news Thursday was that the 18-year-old forward from Roblin was resting comfortably and the array of tests had not uncovered any “red flags” according to Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon.
The welcome news came as a huge relief for teammates and staff, many of whom had been shaken by the incident.
A number of players were in contact with their teammate Thursday, with the news of his improving condition giving them comfort as they returned to the ice to prepare for tonight’s Game 4 at Westman Place looking to complete a first-round sweep of the Pats.
In a small way, hockey has helped the Wheat Kings refocus and start to put the memory of Wednesday night’s scare behind them. Getting their teammate back in the room at some point, when he is fully cleared to return, will help complete that process.
For now, though, it’s a chance to take a minute to put the game in perspective. Yes, the Wheat Kings are a multi-million dollar business helping develop some world-class hockey players and building the foundation for future professional careers.
But on Wednesday night what mattered most was Hawryluk’s health, a gentle reminder that we should never take our own for granted.