By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities hockey player is thanking a stranger in the stands for saving his life. Greg Hirsch collapsed without warning during a game this summer. That’s when an off-duty paramedic leaped into action.

WCCO explains what the new friends say all hockey rinks need so even more stories end up like this one.

As a retired police officer, Greg Hirsch, 59, started skating later in life to stay fit. He went into a Memorial weekend tournament at Edina’s Minnesota Made Ice Arena feeling fine.

“I had no indication I had anything coming down the road for me like this. Nothing,” Hirsch said.

On the first shift of the second game that changed.

“I was playing hockey and boom within five seconds I was dead on the ice,” he said.

Within seconds, Jen Hayden was out of the stands.

“He was on the ice and he was grey. You couldn’t even describe the color. He was pretty much letting out his last breath,” Hayden said.

An off-duty paramedic with North Memorial Health she started chest compressions as another man ran down an automated external defibrillator from the rink’s wall.

“Everybody had a different role that day,” Hayden said.

Doctors say Greg was dead for three minutes. His cardiac arrest resulted in quadruple bypass surgery.

“How do you thank somebody? How do you pay them back for that? She’s one of the reasons I’m here,” Hirsch said.

Four months later, Hirsch got that chance as he got to thank Jen Hayden in-person.

“It’s given me a new perspective on not wasting this new life,” Hirsch said.

As part of that, Greg would like to get defibrillators into more rinks across Minnesota.

“The survival rate for this type of incident that occurs outside of a hospital is between five and ten percent,” Hirsch said.

Hayden believes it’s what made the difference for Hirsch.

Along with the right crowd at the rink.

“Strangers coming together and offering to help. I think it’s important to step up,” Hayden added.

Hirsch plans to be skating again this winter. Doctors say he suffered no muscle damage because of how fast Hayden acted. AED’s run about $2.000. He’s looking at starting a non-profit dedicated to getting more of the machines in rinks across the state.

Liz Collin