Defibrillator training saves hockey player’s life

Members of a West Kelowna seniors hockey club are sharing their story with the hope that others see the importance of AED training

Ogopogo Seniors Hockey Club goaltender Steve Berry (right) was able to help save his friend Dennis Savage's life during a game March 12

Goaltender Steve Berry was standing in his crease as he watched his teammate, and friend, Dennis Savage collapse at Royal LePage Place about a month-and-a-half ago.

“He went down…right in front of me. I knew it wasn’t an injury from an ankle or a knee,” said Berry.

“It scared me.”

Immediately, Berry and fellow Ogopogo Seniors Hockey Club player, Bill Koch, skated over to Savage. They realized he wasn’t breathing and they couldn’t find a pulse.

Berry began performing CPR while yelling at the other players to call 911 and retrieve the team’s automated external defibrillator (AED), which they keep on the bench every time they play—just in case.


In 2006, a player named Vince Rowe suggested the Ogopogo Seniors Hockey Club purchase an AED and that the players receive the appropriate training on how to use it in case of an emergency.

Savage admitted not everyone was keen about the idea at first.

“I was probably one of the ones who was maybe a little hesitant about buying it,” said Savage.

The equipment and training would mean each player would have to pay an extra $40 on top of their regular fees. Although there was slight pushback at the time, eventually the players agreed it was a worthwhile investment.

Soon after, 18 players from the hockey club took a half-day course with St. John Ambulance. They learned basic CPR, first aid related to common hockey injuries and how to properly use the AED.

“It’s very straightforward, the machine itself is virtually foolproof,” said Savage.

“The machine will start talking you right through the whole assessment.”

Over the years the club has sent several new players to receive similar training.

In May 2013, Berry and Savage were among a handful of players who had previously been trained, yet signed up for a refresher course.

At the time, the pair found themselves partnered together to practice using the AED on a dummy.


After about five minutes of performing CPR and two shocks from the AED, Savage still wasn’t breathing.

“I was starting to get this very terrible feeling,” said Berry.

“Then the third shock brought him back.”

Berry and the other players watched as Savage began breathing and eventually talking, asking if he could sit up.

“That’s when the emotions kind of all let themselves flow.”

Savage, who experienced cardiac arrest, said he doesn’t remember much of his time on the ice during that March 12 game.

When doctors observed Savage’s cardiogram, they found he had four blockages: Three at 80 per cent and one at 90 per cent.

On March 21 Savage underwent a successful quadruple bypass surgery at Kelowna General Hospital.

In a few months, he will likely be able to continue playing golf and hockey.

Savage said he is thankful for Rowe’s suggestion of receiving proactive training.

“(Rowe) was insistent that we should get (an AED). I’m sure glad that we did…if we didn’t have it there, chances are I wouldn’t be here today,” said Savage.

Berry said there was potential for panic to take over on March 12, but the training the players had received helped calm the situation.

“It helped bring everybody (into) focus,” said Berry.

“There were 20 of us on the ice that day, we all seemed to provide some sort of assistance.”

Both Berry and Savage encourage other local sports teams, especially those with older players, to consider purchasing an AED and receiving the appropriate training.

“We’re just regular people, we’re not medical professionals,” said Berry.

“The little bit of training that we had focused us.

“We got our buddy back.”

Twitter: @PatersonWade