Back On the Ice (Video)

NHL coach back after heart condition took him off the ice

The National Hockey League (NHL) is not for the faint of heart. For Teppo Numminen, Buffalo Sabres assistant coach and former NHL player, paying attention to his heart made all the difference.

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As a young man, Numminen was told by physicians that his heart murmur was nothing to worry about. So he didn’t give it a second thought until he entered the NHL, when he was informed of an abnormal – and leaking – heart valve.

Surgery after 18 seasons in the NHL

Complicating Numminen’s health and career, was the development of an aortic aneurysm that required surgery in 2007.

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“Obviously, it was the level at which he was playing ice hockey that increased his risk of the aneurysm bursting or tearing,” said Lars Svensson MD, cardiac surgeon who performed the surgery and is Director of the Aorta Center at Cleveland Clinic.

The minimally invasive procedure repaired the leaking valve and used a graft (fabric tube) to replace the 5.5 centimeter aneurysm. To this day, Numminen says he uses the experience as a lesson when coaching.

“Even if you go through tough times here, you have it so good,” Numminen says. “It’s just reminding them that you have to focus, work hard, and do your best; but still remember it’s just a game.”