BOSTON — Charlie McAvoy remembers the fear.
The Boston Bruins rookie was playing against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 26 at TD Garden when his heart started beating irregularly and fast.
McAvoy also remembers the good news.
“I think it was relief first off to find out it was not life-threatening and not dangerous to my overall health,” the 20-year-old defenseman said during a news conference at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday, his first comments since undergoing a procedure Jan. 22 to correct his condition. “To realize that obviously I’m in there, kind of nervous, was this going to be something that’s really bad, will I be able to play again or anything like that? So to find out that it was something that was not dangerous . . . something I could still continue to play with, that was a good takeaway from the overall situation.”
McAvoy, of Long Beach, said he’d had similar episodes in the past but the one against the Oilers was the longest. He alerted team internist Dr. David Finn and trainer Don Del Negro. Tests confirmed Finn’s diagnosis of a supraventricular tachycardia, a condition not considered dangerous.
An ablation, the removal of tissue, was done through a small catheter that entered through the lower abdomen and up into the heart. Doctors assured McAvoy he could keep playing with little risk of anything worse than another episode. He continued to play and didn’t miss a game until the day after the procedure.
“Charlie talked about the time frame about when the decision was made, it was about the best medical decision for Charlie regardless of what games he was going to miss,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. “That’s probably been one of the most amazing things is how well he’s handled knowing that this was on deck and going out there and playing at the level he was. It says a lot about him.”
McAvoy leads NHL rookies in ice time per game (22 minutes, 49 seconds) and has five goals and 20 assists in 45 games. He hadn’t missed a game until Jan. 23 and gave no indication of what he was going through. He put aside the prospect of another episode but was buoyed by knowing there was a plan should he have a reoccurrence.
“Were it to come back, I knew I would be fine,” McAvoy said. “We kind of talked about a little strategy if it did come back, kind of remove myself from the game and allow myself time to get my heart back (to normal) and feel good. Luckily we didn’t get to that point.”
McAvoy doesn’t expect his play to be much different when he returns. Maybe he’ll need a little extra time to get in full shape, but that’s it.
“I’m still the same person,” he said. “I’m one week removed and I feel good. So we’ll get back out there and we’ll get on the ice and see how things are going. And when the time is right I’ll get back out there.”