The undefeated Long Island Edge 18U hockey team was celebrating a 3-1 lead in the championship game when the team’s coach, Manhasset resident Kent Hitchcock, stopped breathing and collapsed.
Manhasset High School senior and Edge teammate Christopher Boisselle said the scene quickly went from celebration to panic as the team, parents and other bystanders realized what was happening behind the bench.
“I was on the ice, and everyone on the bench started going crazy,” Boisselle said. “I thought someone had gotten punched or gotten into a fight because the bench was going so crazy.”
Hitchcock, however, was on the ground and the team was signaling to the crowd that he needed immediate help.
Hitchcock, 52, is a managing director at Morgan Stanley and has coached the team for five years. Hitchcock said he had a full physical about a month before the near-fatal cardiac arrest episode in March and there was no warning from his doctors that he was in danger.
“I felt good,” Hitchcock said. “I was coming off a very busy week and a golf trip where I was walking 36 holes a day, so I had no signs.”
Hitchcock was revived by an off-duty referee in the stands and a number of EMS workers, firefighters and police who were there to watch their children compete for the title. Hitchcock said someone at the Dix Hills Ice Rink had a defibrillator in a car and was able to bring him back to consciousness while other called 911.
“There were EMS people in the stands, so I had an incredible amount of people there who knew what to do and have the right equipment available right there,” Hitchcock said. “I’m incredibly fortunate. Anywhere else but there, I don’t know that I’m talking to you right now.”
Hitchcock was taken to Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital, where a cardiologist, Dr. Raj Patcha, inserted a small balloon into the clogged artery to get more blood flowing to the heart. Once stable, he was transported to the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset where Dr. Alan Hartman, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Northwell Health, met with Hitchcock and his wife, Mia, to explain that a quadruple coronary artery bypass graft needed to be done immediately.
“In the care of Dr. Hartman and North Shore, I was incredibly fortunate,” Hitchcock said. “I can’t say enough about him and the hospital and the service they provided, both in surgery and even when I went home, they were always sending someone to the house to check on me. Through the whole process, they were incredible.”
Hitchcock said he was back on the ice within a month, coaching the Edge boys again, but the team members decided they wanted to do something for the hospital that saved their coach.
Boisselle and his teammates organized the Edge Out Heart Disease fundraiser on Sunday at the Port Washington Skating Center, complete with ice skating for $10 per person and a host of auction items, including hockey jerseys and sticks signed by the Long Island Islanders. Former Islander and Stanley Cup winner Ed Westfall attended.
“This group of boys is so terrific,” Hitchcock said. “They’re tremendous on the ice, they’ve had a lot of success on the ice, but they’re even better off the ice. I really believe in their character. We think about their character when we’re picking kids for the team, and when they do things like this, it really comes out.”
Hitchcock said his situation should serve as a warning for those who think their heart is fine because they exercise regularly and eat healthy because he was one of those people.
“I tell people, you can’t exercise your way through bad arteries,” Hitchcock said. “Sometimes it’s just genetics. If my story helps one person, it was more than worth it.”