BE­ING THERE

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT DOC­TOR.

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON smil­ton@thes­pec.com 905-526-3268 | @mil­to­natthes­pec

I hadn’t no­ticed it on the tape when I first re­played the in­ter­view, but sec­ond time around I could clearly hear the voice, far in the back­ground.

“Where’s Lind­say?” the dis­em­bod­ied voice asked, in­sis­tently, over the noise of the At­lanta Thrash­ers (any­one re­mem­ber them?) dress­ing room. “Where’s Lind­say?” The voice in the fore­ground of the tape be­longed to Bill Lind­say, the man the voice in the back­ground was search­ing for as Lind­say and I were dis­cussing the game the Thrash­ers winger had just played against his former team, the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens, at the Bell Cen­tre.

The back­ground voice be­longed to the Cana­di­ens’ long­time team doc­tor, Dr. Charles Mul­der, a su­per­star in Mon­treal’s med­i­cal world and best known out­side the city for the emer­gency tra­cheotomy that saved Habs winger Trent McLeary’s life af­ter his lar­ynx was shat­tered by a slap­shot in Jan­uary 2000.

Within a few hours, he would per­form an­other emer­gency tra­cheotomy and save an­other hockey player’s life. Bill Lind­say’s. I was in Mon­treal to write about former Hamil­ton Bull­dogs coach Claude Julien and Lind­say, who had been in­stru­men­tal (10 goals in 23 play­off games) in the Bull­dogs’ run to the sev­enth game of the Calder Cup fi­nal the pre­vi­ous spring.

The Cana­di­ens had waived Lind­say out of the NHL, and sent him to Hamil­ton (which is also Lind­say’s mid­dle name), where his play got the 32-yearold vet­eran an­other NHL shot with the Thrash­ers, who’d called him up from the Chicago Wolves a few weeks ear­lier.

It was a Satur­day af­ter­noon and Lind­say had been knocked out of the game by a wrist shot to the lar­ynx by Mon­treal’s Frankie Bouil­lon, an­other former Bull­dog. As we talked af­ter the game, Lind­say dis­missed the shot to the throat — al­though terrifying for about 10 sec­onds — as mi­nor, noth­ing to worry about. He was hur­ry­ing to get dressed and get on the bus to the air­port for the flight to At­lanta.

I left him af­ter that, but Mul­der didn’t. Which is why Bill Lind­say is alive to­day.

Mul­der knew Lind­say from his parts of two sea­sons in Mon­treal, and rec­og­nized as soon as he heard his voice, that it was dif­fer­ent than nor­mal. He told Lind­say he wasn’t get­ting on any plane, and that he wanted him to take a cab to hos­pi­tal for ob­ser­va­tion. When Lind­say balked, Mul­der went over his head to coach Bob Hart­ley, and Lind­say was sent to hos­pi­tal.

Rewind­ing the tape two days later I grew cold, hear­ing what Mul­der heard and what I didn’t fully hear the first time. Lind­say had a raspy, hoarse voice, an in­ter­mit­tent cough, and oc­ca­sion­ally he had to pause to la­bo­ri­ously force him­self to swal­low.

Tests at the hos­pi­tal showed a num­ber of frac­tures to Lind­say’s lar­ynx and as he was be­ing moved to the in­ten­sive care unit; it col­lapsed and he went into car­dio-res­pi­ra­tory ar­rest. He stopped breath­ing for 90 sec­onds.

And Mul­der, for the sec­ond time in four years, had to per­form an emer­gency tra­cheotomy to save a hockey player’s life.

The Thrash­ers wouldn’t let Lind­say play again that sea­son, and the fol­low­ing year he spent time in the ECHL, then went to Ger­many for two sea­sons be­fore re­tir­ing.

Even­tu­ally, he be­came the TV colour com­men­ta­tor for the Florida Pan­thers, and is now the ra­dio an­a­lyst as well as the leader of the Pan­thers’ learn-toplay-hockey pro­grams. More than 500 of his 777 NHL games had come dur­ing his six years in Florida, and he re­mains one of the most pop­u­lar Pan­thers ever.

He scored what is still con­sid­ered the big­gest goal in fran­chise his­tory: the clincher in a five-game open­ing-round win over heav­ily favoured Boston on Florida’s im­prob­a­ble way to the 1996 Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal.

I’ve run into Lind­say pe­ri­od­i­cally over the years. We have talked about that in­no­cent in­ter­view, when he didn’t know what was to be­fall him over the next few hours.

Four years later, we cer­tainly talked about it in depth. Richard Zed­nik of the Pan­thers had his throat slashed by a team­mate’s skate at the HSBC Arena in Buf­falo in mid-Fe­bru­ary 2008, and came per­ilously close to dy­ing on the ice.

I’ll be writ­ing about the Zed­nik in­ci­dent later, but what you need to know now is this: high up in the visi­tors’ ra­dio broad­cast booth, Bill Lind­say was calling that game.

He felt his own throat tighten im­me­di­ately, he told me, and, “I lost my pro­fes­sional cool.”

Watch­ing Zed­nik stag­ger to the bench, Lind­say yelled into his mi­cro­phone: “Gosh, help him! Help him!”

Be­cause many peo­ple did, against all odds Zed­nik sur­vived.

Just as Lind­say did, be­cause of Dr. David Mul­der.

Vet­eran Spec­ta­tor colum­nist Steve Mil­ton has pretty much seen it all in his 40 years cov­er­ing sports around the world. In Be­ing There, he re­lives spe­cial mo­ments of those sto­ries, from the in­side out, ev­ery Fri­day. If there’s a mem­o­rable sport­ing event you want Steve to write about, let him know at smil­ton@thes­pec.com. Chances are he was there.

SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

At­lanta Thrasher Bill Lind­say, 51 days be­fore Dr. Charles Mul­der saved­his life in Mon­treal on Jan. 3, 2004.

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