Chris Pronger is one of the greatest hockey defenders ever, but perhaps he’s more known for his own terrifying in-game medical emergency … the former NHL MVP suffered commotio cordis after taking a slapshot to the heart during a playoff game in 1998.
TMZ Sports talked to the retired 48-year-old NHL great about the parallels between him and Damar Hamlin … as many physicians have theorized the 24-year-old Bills safety also experienced the extremely rare heart issue.
“I got hit with a slapshot literally right in the heart and in between beats and that’s called commotio cordis where you get hit in between beats. Your heart thinks it beat so it skips one beat. Sometimes the heart restarts, sometimes it doesn’t,” Pronger said of the May 10, 1998 incident in Detroit.
Although he lost consciousness and collapsed to the ice in terrifying fashion, fortunately for Chris, his heart started beating again on its own. He ultimately didn’t require CPR or defibrillation. Video of the incident involving Chris is here … but fair warning, it’s difficult to watch.
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“I kinda get up a little bit, stumble, couple strides and then collapse to the ice. The next thing you know, I’m waking up and I got my shirt cut open, all my stuff’s off. I’m looking up at the rafters and looking up at the banners in Joe Louis Arena and looking over to my right, I can see our bench — guys are crying.”
“You don’t really know what’s going on. You’re just kinda deer in the headlights talking to the doctor.”
FYI, Hamlin’s physicians, in a briefing from the hospital earlier this week, have said it’s too early to determine if commotio cordis or another heart issue caused the medical emergency.
Whatever the cause, we know Hamlin’s heart did not restart by itself. Fortunately, the Bills medical team immediately sprang into action, saving Damar’s life.
“The placement of the trainers and doctors, medical staff, they have to pay attention to the game because you never know when something is gonna happen,” Pronger says, adding … “Kudos to them for being quick to jump out there. When you see somebody fall like that you clearly know something is not right.”
When Pronger collapsed in the Motor City, his parents were in the arena to watch the game … much like Damar’s mom was in Cincinnati. Chris empathizes with what the Hamlin’s are going through.
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“This one seems like it’s a lot more critical than mine was. Very similar in the beginning but as you watch, this one plays out, you know, applying CPR for a number of minutes on the field,” Chris said.
“You feel for them. It’s become a spectacle for them and it’s a life-or-death situation. The last thing they’re thinking about right now is football. They’re thinking about the human side of things in Damar’s life and getting back to some sense of normalcy as it relates to just life in general.”
Hamlin remains hospitalized, but has made a miraculous recovery … not just regaining consciousness, but also breathing on his own.