Hockey player Harold Cox, 74, talks about his ‘Miracle on Ice’
For millions of hockey fans, the Miracle on Ice will always be equated with a group of American college hockey players upsetting the powerful Russian national team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.
For Harold Cox of Osoyoos, who has been playing hockey since he was a little boy in the Peace country in rural Alberta, he had his own miracle on ice three weeks ago.
Cox, 74, suffered a massive heart attack while playing with the same Friday morning gang he had played with at the Oliver Arena for several years.
Thanks to the quick actions of five players – including Jeff Crowley, Doug Hume, Marty Whiteman, Bryan Coles and Steve Arstad – and access to an automated external defibrillator (AED), Cox was brought back from sure death as the players used the AED to shock Cox’s heart and bring him back to life.
Two weeks after the frightening incident, Cox underwent successful triple bypass surgery at Kelowna General Hospital and was able to return to his Osoyoos home late last week.
Because he was feeling so good, Cox decided to pay the boys a visit at the Oliver Arena last Friday morning and thank those involved for saving his life and show his appreciation to all of the other players for their letters, cards and phone calls showing how much they cared.
While he remembers driving to the Oliver Arena and playing for over an hour, Cox said he didn’t remember anything relating to passing out on the ice or being revived.
“We have two hours of ice time every Friday morning and the only thing I sort of remember is the flood halfway through,” he said. “The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital in Kelowna and seeing my wife Audrie and my son Brian, who lives in Ottawa, and my daughter Jody, who lives in Gibbons, standing at the end of the bed.
“I obviously knew something bad had happened for my son and daughter to have come down to see me, but I honestly have no memory at all of what happened. When I heard about and read about what those guys did to save my life, it just sent shivers up and down my spine.”
As someone who had played hockey almost his entire life and had dedicated himself to a healthy lifestyle by working out at the gym on a regular basis and eating healthy and nutritious food, Cox admitted he never thought he would be a candidate to suffer a massive heart attack.
“Just goes to show that you never know when it can happen,” he said. “I had just come back from Mexico on vacation with the family so I hadn’t been at the gym for a couple of weeks and I obviously pushed too hard out on the ice.”
As our national pastime, Canadian hockey players share an indescribable bond and he will never be able to thank the five guys who worked so well together to save his life, said an emotional Cox.
“I just can’t be more thankful for playing hockey with this particular group of guys and finding out everything they did to save my life and take care of me,” he said tearing up. “The timing of this is just incredible because if this hadn’t happened near these guys, they wouldn’t have been able to help me.
“This group has been so good to me from the day I joined six or seven years ago. I’m the second oldest guy out there, but they accepted me with open arms and they go out of their way to set me up so I can still score the odd goal or two.
“After hearing everything that happened that day, in my books these guys are heroes and there’s absolutely no question they saved my life. They acted quickly and did everything perfectly and brought me back. I will never be able to thank them enough.”
It was also very fortunate the rink supervisor, Mark Silbernagel, was in the arena office and had easy access to the AED, said Cox.
Since this incident, Town of Oliver parks and recreation staff have moved the portable AED to the lobby of the arena.
To show their thanks, Cox said he and his family plan on paying for and donating one or two portable AEDS in Oliver or Osoyoos over the next few weeks.
Cox’s amazing story is made even more remarkable due to his connection with Doug Hume.
As an 11-year-old living in Beaverlodge, Alberta, Cox was tending to a trap line during a bitterly cold winter day when he suddenly became disoriented.
A woman saw him through a window struggling badly in the bitter cold, dragged him inside and warmed him up as Cox was suffering obvious signs of hypothermia.
That woman was Margaret Hume, Doug’s mother.
“I didn’t know Doug until I moved back to Osoyoos (he lived here for a couple of years as a teenager when his parents retired here) and started playing hockey,” said Cox. “When I found out his last name was Hume, I asked if he was any relation to Margaret from Beaverlodge. When he told me that was his mother, I simply couldn’t believe it.”
Cox’s wife agrees that the five men who worked together to save her husband’s life are heroes.
“Sometimes you’re just humbled by the people who enter your life and I have no doubt there’s a reason why this happened when it happened,” she said. “These guys did everything right and couldn’t have done a better job taking care of him.
“The two paramedics who took him to hospital said they knew right away that Harold was going to be alright because these wonderful men did such an amazing job.”
The doctors, nurses and other staff at the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver and Kelowna General Hospital did a tremendous job making him and his family feel comfortable and he wanted to publicly thank them for a job well done, said Cox.
“I’ve had angels taking care of me all the way since this happened,” he said.
Cox said his doctors have told him he should be able to return to the gym in early March and he hopes to return to playing hockey in the fall.
“If everything goes well, doctors told me I should make a full recovery and be able to do everything I used to do and more now that all the blockage is gone from the bypass,” he said. “I do plan on playing hockey again, but I’ll obviously have to take it easy when I do.”
When Cox visited the boys on Friday morning in Oliver, they were thrilled to see him.
“It was incredible to see him back so soon,” said Whiteman. “It’s unbelievable he’s up and walking around and was able to drop in and see us. It’s so great to see him again.”
It’s hard to believe he’s back home and walking around and doing well,” he said. “If you would have seen him collapse on the ice three weeks ago and obviously in a lot of trouble, you would never have thought this could happen.”
A miracle on ice indeed.