Back On The Ice

Spitfires’ Andy Delmore 
On His Return To The Team

Story by Ryan Percy 
Photography courtesy Windsor Spitfires Hockey Club

Despite our best efforts we do not have total control over our bodies. You may outwardly be at the peak of physical health for your age, but this view is only skin deep. When we appear to be at our strongest some unknown health problem can sneak up and get us when we least expect it.

This was the case for Andy Delmore, former NHL defenseman and assistant coach for the Windsor Spitfires.

Andy’s career is one of constantly shifting to strive for the best. Having played for teams across Canada, the United States and Europe for over 20 years before he moved into a decade of coaching.

However, on December 5th of 2022, Andy suffered a bout of heart arrhythmia on the ice during a training session with the Spitfires. 

“I remember getting dizzy and then going down to one knee,” Andy says of the moment it happened. “Then I remember lying on the ice when I came to after I got defibrillated.”

Andy said if it was not for the team trainer, Aaron English, to perform the defibrillation procedure and to be assisted by the team’s medical staff, he probably would not have made it.

“I’m very thankful and grateful for still being here,” Andy says. “Especially since I almost lost everything.”

A heart arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat and, according to Mayo Clinic, is caused by electrical signals that coordinate the beating to not function properly. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting.

With Andy now recovering from the arrhythmia, he’s finding his footing once more on the ice. He is taking it slow to make sure he does not push too hard. The last thing anyone wants is to put their recovery into jeopardy and go back to square one.

“I’m on light exercise right now till we find out a few more test results,” Andy says how he has been dealing with everything after the incident. “I go on the ice but just nothing too crazy right now.”

A defibrillator saved Andy’s life, and as part of the medical procedures after his bout of heart arrhythmia he now has a smaller one permanently implanted inside his chest.

An ICD, or implanted cardioverter-defibrillator, monitors his heart rhythm and if it detects the rhythm starting to become irregular it delivers a shock to set his heart on the right beating pattern again. They are not pacemakers, which use electricity to set the pace of the heart, the ICD detects if the heart is beating incorrectly and defibrillates it if it is.

The event has left Andy both with a new piece of technology and also a shifted outlook on life after what happened left him time to think and re-evaluate.

“It’s a little tough going through something like this, with the thoughts that run through your head once in a while.” Andy says of how it has changed how he views each day. “But over time I’ll be able to get through this. Hopefully my family can do the same. There’s a little difference in my mind after it and I’m very grateful and thankful every day.”

Andy is married and the father of two girls. He jokes about his oldest not going down the hockey route now that she is getting to that age, but he supports both his daughters fully to follow their own goals and dreams. He says he is glad to still be here and have time to care for them.

“Being a husband, dad and coach takes up a lot of time,” Andy laughs about how he has time for it all. “Family is number one, hockey is number two.”

Spitfires Winger, Oliver Peer, gets direction from Andy on his first time back on the ice after his health issues. Photo by Tim Jarrold.

He also makes time for other things, Andy has a fondness for golf which he takes up during the summer among other things, though his life puts family and hockey at the forefront.

With his time off for recovery, he was missed by the Spitfires and welcomed back with open arms when he was finally able to get back on the ice — something he missed most about taking time away from being both a coach and a former player.

The team is glad to have him back. He has helped boost the power of the Spitfires since he came on during the 2021-2022 season.

In the years following their 2017 Memorial Cup victory, the Spitfires have ended the OHL Western Conference season ranked between 5th and 8th. In his first season as Assistant Coach the Spitfires not only topped the Western Conference during the regular season but won the Western Conference Playoffs as well. The Spitfires are also number two in the Western Conference 2022-2023 season standings as well at time of writing.

This kind of performance is backed by Andy imparting his own record-setting experience. Delmore was the first NHL rookie defenseman to not only score a three-goal hat trick during the playoffs but also the first rookie defenseman to have multiple-goal games during a playoff year.

With his incident he not only wants to put emphasis on medical training, a response he shares with Spitfire’s trainer Aaron English, but also the importance of making sure a defibrillator is always available if possible.

“If those defibrillators weren’t there, there’s a real good chance I wouldn’t be here,” Andy says. “If you’re in a profession where you can have one of these machines there, I would highly recommend it since you can save a life with it.”

While he has been taking it slow, Andy does not plan to stop. The Spitfires still need coaches, and he still has his own family to take care of.

Having come back from a potentially fatal medical situation he has had time to think over how he wants to live.

“With some of the health issues and whatnot, my goal is to just be the best person I can be every day,” Andy says of his outlook on life. “Whether it’s as coach, husband or father. I’m very competitive in everything I do. What drives me is wanting to win and wanting to be a good person.”

Add comment