September 30, 2011 in Sports

Defibrillator grade ‘A’ for D Division

By The Spokesman-Review

The humor can come with the edge of a skate blade in the D Division of Eagles Rec Hockey League – the over-35, whose-turn-to-buy, past-the-primes-they- never-had division. Except that more often than not, the players will aim it at themselves.

For instance, Jere Sullivan was asked if there was an E Division.

“No,” he said. “But if there was, we’d be in it.”

But D happens to be just right. It should forever more be the D, even if future participation births more teams and more divisions. And an eerie tale from Sunday night rampant with coincidence and parallelism even for hockey’s close-knit community – plus a happy ending – will explain why.

Let’s start with the happy ending: John Bein walked out of Providence Holy Family Hospital on Thursday, five days after suffering a heart attack during a D Division game at the Eagles Ice-A-Rena a few blocks away.

Credit for this blessed circumstance can be easily spread around – to quick-thinking friends and fellow players who handled CPR, to Bein’s daughter-in-law Kirstin who called 911, to the EMTs and ER staff at Holy Family, of course, and to Dr. Donald Canaday, who implanted the stent and had Bein resting in intensive care barely two hours after he’d collapsed.

And in a sport that loves its assists, one more: to Sam Via.

Who died from a heart attack on the same ice in January 2008.

“The parallels are amazing,” Bein said. “I’m here today because of what happened to Sam. Guys have told me I’m the first member of the Sam Via Club.”

Bein and Via shared a history long before their heart episodes. They had met at Fairchild Air Force Base – Bein an active-duty B-52 aerial gunner, Via a boom operator with the Washington Air National Guard’s 141st Refueling Wing. When the gunner position was eliminated after the first Gulf War, Bein became a boom operator, too, with the 92nd wing. They’d bump into each other at the post office and talk for 20 minutes, and Bein eventually discovered they both had a Jones for hockey when he refereed one of Via’s rec games.

Bein was refereeing that night in 2008 Via showed up to a 10:30 game complaining about being tired – the late hour being part of it, another part being that he’d stopped to shovel a heavy snowfall from the driveway of a friend who had a broken ankle. But it turned out to be more than fatigue.

When Via collapsed at center ice in the third period, players rushed to his side. Among them were a teammate, Sullivan, and a player on the other team, Steve Jones – who happened to be Bein’s family dentist. They performed CPR until emergency personnel arrived, but to no avail. Sam Via was gone at the age of 59.

“It was devastating to everyone, and obviously his family,” Sullivan said, “and yet we envied him, too. He had all his buddies around him, out doing something he loved.”

There have been a handful of Sam Via tributes ongoing in the Spokane community he so loved and that loved him back. At Eagles, they do a memorial skate in his name every Thanksgiving. And they did something else.

They bought an automated external defibrillator – though Eagles owner Tim Everson has joked that “I put it in for me.”

Well, not quite.

On Sunday, Bein, who also serves as a league administrator, arrived early to attend to some paperwork and dashed out for a rushed burger-and-fries – which, naturally, he assumed was causing his struggles. He did manage to get himself off the ice and was ready to have Kirstin take him to the ER when he crumpled on the stairs – waking up to find CPR being performed by a fireman on the other team, Chris Newman.

And by Steve Jones.

“It was a very tough night for me,” Jones said. “I remember seeing Sam’s eyes when he passed away and John had the same expression. But within about a minute, he was conscious again. Having the defibrillator on hand definitely saved John’s life.”

So the D Division ribbing can resume. Bein, a Chicago native, told Wisconsin-raised Everson the heart attack was brought on by the Packers beating the Bears on Sunday. A commemorative “scoresheet” was framed for Bein, showing a 3-2 victory over a Rypien Foundation team they’d never beaten – though the game ended when the paramedics were called. “Thanks for taking one for the team, John,” it reads.

“One of the neat things about this league is we know why we’re there,” Bein said. “If a score is lopsided, teams will swap players to even it up or if one team is short, they’ll get some guys from the other team. It’s fun. It’s just when a guy has a heart attack, it’s not so fun.”

But now the D in D Division stands for defibrillator, too.

The one for the Sam Via Club.

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