Numminen's Career in Question with heart condition
March 20, 2004
By J. Douglas Foster
The Stars' 35-year-old defenseman was diagnosed with a dilated aorta (the largest artery leaving the heart) Friday, which has him out indefinitely and uncertain about whether or not he will ever play the game of hockey again.
The good news, according to team internist Dr. John C. Brooks, is that Numminen should have a normal, healthy life if he decides not to return to the game. The only question is whether or not playing hockey would jeopardize his condition, which they won't know for some time until Numminen undergoes more tests.
"He's perfectly medically stable," Brooks said.
"The issue is whether he can play hockey safely, but he is in no immediate danger right now."
Brooks also said Numminen has had a heart valve problem for some time, one that started with a heart murmur during his childhood years.
His current condition became apparent during Thursday's game against Vancouver in which Numminen noticed an accelerated heartbeat. Numminen underwent tests late Thursday night, and then on Friday doctors found the dilation following an eco-cardiogram, which is essentially a sonogram of the heart.
At that point, Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong talked with Numminen about his future.
"He was certainly shaken, as anyone would be to get information like this," Armstrong said. "This morning (Saturday) we spoke and his spirits were better."
Armstrong also said Numminen's hockey future was a much lower priority for himself, team owner Tom Hicks and the Stars' organization than his simply being healthy.
"Our thoughts first and foremost are with Teppo and his family," Armstrong said. "This may affect his hockey career, but to me that's very secondary to the rest of his life."
Brooks said Numminen may require surgery "at some point and time" to repair the dilated aorta, but that it wasn't in his immediate future. He also said Numminen's condition was "a very common finding," and that the concern with Numminen's career was the potential for taking a blow to the chest, especially during a time of an increased heart rate because of intense skating.
Numminen has removed himself from the team indefinitely, though he did see a few of his teammates Saturday morning prior to their game against the St. Louis Blues. He will not travel with the squad on next week's trip, and will await more tests in the coming weeks, Brooks said, to see if a return to the game is possible.
Because of the recent trade acquisition of Chris Therien and free-agent signing of Lubomir Sekeras, who is expected to be in Dallas Saturday afternoon, Armstrong said the team would not have to make any call-ups from Utah to fill Numminen's spot at the present time.
Numminen's 1,157 games ranks as the second most by any player born outside of North America, trailing only fellow Finn Jari Kurri, who played in 1,251 games. His career NHL scoring of 111 goals and 439 assists for 550 points rank him fifth among European defensemen in all-time points, behind only Borje Salming, Nicklas Lidstrom, Fredrik Olausson, and Dallas teammate Sergei Zubov. This season, the Tampere, Finland, native appeared in 59 games for the Stars, scoring 16 points (three goals, 13 assists). He was acquired from Phoenix in exchange for Mike Sillinger on July 22, 2003 after serving as the Coyotes' captain.
Stars fans can send Numminen get well wishes via e-mail. The address is GetWellSoon@dallasstars.com