‘I pray others may be saved’: Safety kits installed at local hockey rinks after player’s death

Connecticut Insider (Bridgeport, CT)

April 17, 2022

Clark Jones never again wants to get a call like the one he got the night of January 6, telling him Teddy Balkind, a player he coached for years at the New Canaan Winter Club, had died.

Balkind, a 10th-grader at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, died after his neck was accidentally cut by another players’ skate during a hockey game at the Brunswick School in Greenwich.

When Jones was approached about getting involved with a program that trains people to treat life-threatening cuts, he was immediately interested.

“It all happened pretty quickly after that tragic incident,” said Jones, the New Canaan High School varsity boys hockey coach. “It’s an unthinkable scenario, but obviously one that can happen in an instant. I’m coaching kids and it’s my job to keep them safe. Even though it’s hard to imagine, we have to be able to handle these type of scenarios. This course teaches you, and the kits allow you, to act quickly. Those first 5-10 minutes are so important to save them before the experts arrive.”

The program, Stop The Bleed, is an effort led by American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma started after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The group trains people and installs kits that contain items like a tourniquet, a quick-clot dressing, scissors, gloves and a chest seal in case the injury is to the chest as would occur with a gunshot. Kits have been installed at schools, hospitals and businesses.

The focus quickly turned to hockey rinks following the death of Balkind. Coaches and ice rink staffs locally are being trained on how to stop severe bleeding.

Though accidents like Balkind’s are rare, the hope is that having the kits and training staff will prevent another tragedy.

Lisa Fedick, Wonderland of Ice President had the kits installed at the Bridgeport rink and Skate New Haven at the Ralph Walker Rink just days after the tragedy in Greenwich.

“The staff from Yale New Haven was wonderful,” said Fedick, who is also Norwich Rose Garden Ice Arena principal and Skate New Haven president. “They brought the kit to Wonderland and provided training within a week of Teddy’s accident. They answered all of our questions and addressed our concerns. Everyone completing the training was presented with a certificate. We all feel very comfortable about our ability to use the kit if ever called upon.”

Most rinks, as well as high school gymnasiums, are equipped with AED kits, providing a defibrillator should anyone suffer cardiac arrest. Fedick said having a Stop the Bleed kit at rinks is just as important as the AEDs.

“It is truly a tragedy that something so horrific had to happen to one of our own to initiate action,” Fedick said. “Small cuts and punctures are not uncommon, especially among the figure skaters, who wear no protective equipment. In the very unique environment of an ice skating rink, a stop the bleed kit should be considered as an equally important life-saving tool as the AED.”

Police officials have not yet stated whether Balkind was wearing a protective neck guard the day of the incident.

The training course takes roughly 45 minutes to complete and the kits are placed in rinks near the ice. According to the group’s website, over 1.3 million people have been trained to use the kits across the country.

The course being taught to coaches and rink employees, was created by the American College of Surgeons and is currently taught around the country. Trainees are taught to identify and treat catastrophic cuts using pressure, tourniquets and wound packing.

Currently, kits are being shipped to Ukraine along with videos recorded in Ukrainian, training people how to use them.

According to the organization’s website, the goal was to improve the survival rate of victims following mass shootings by empowering trained bystanders to take life-saving action.

The Director of Trauma Services and Emergency Management at Bridgeport Hospital, Paul Possenti, has been involved with Stop The Bleed since it began and said putting the kits into ice rinks made sense before, but even more so after Balkind’s death.

“Interest in getting the kits into rinks and training coaches took off after the accident in Greenwich,” Possenti said. “We donated one to Wonderland of Ice and now we are in five or six rinks and have trained coaches and people who work at the rinks. Anybody can learn.”

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Stop The Bleed has been started at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Darien Ice House, Ralph Walker in New Haven and Wonderland of Ice.

Possenti said the training is straightforward and based on military procedures.

“Our curriculum teaches people to identify serious bleeding and stop it with direct pressure or the use of quick clot or to put a tourniquet on,” Possenti said. “Every soldier in combat carries a tourniquet and quick clot and is trained on how to use it. If coaches or people at rinks can stop a serious bleeding situation before help can arrive, they can save a life.”

STB also teaches attendees to pack wounds, controlling blood loss after a gunshot or stab wound.

While Balkind died after a blade hit his neck, players can also sustain cuts to unprotected areas on their legs just above their skates, on their thighs between their pants and shin guards and on their wrists just above their gloves.

Jones sustained a cut on his ankle in college and the blade just missed a major artery, he said.

“I was at practice and a skate caught me in the V-shaped opening where the tongue of the skate is,” Jones said. “I’m scared that will be the next scenario because of the amount of blood you can lose to a cut on your leg. In hockey, why wouldn’t you have the kits? I can tell you that the Winter Club will have every coach trained in this.”

While rinks are voluntarily adding the kits, many hope to see them in every rink in the country.

“Without question, every ice skating rink should have a Stop The Bleed kit,” Fedick said. “It is my hope that this will become a mandate from not only our governing bodies of ice sports: USA Hockey, US Figure Skating and USA Speed Skating, but also our state and federal legislators. I pray that through Teddy’s inconceivable loss that others may be saved.”

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