AMHERST - John Nuttall died Sunday night doing something he loved - playing recreational hockey at Amherst Stadium.
His sudden passing came almost 10 years to the day since Nuttall himself tried to save the life of his teammate Ron Elliott, who died after he collapsed on the ice during a 1998 hockey game in Bouctouche, N.B.
One of John's best friends, Jimmy Skinner, was on the ice with Nuttall and Elliot 10 years ago, on Nov. 22, 1998.
"Johnny actually administered CPR to Ronnie at that point in time, so it's very ironic he died under the same circumstances almost 10 years later." Skinner said.
Skinner heard of Nuttall's passing a half hour after it happened at about 5:30 p.m.
"It was very shocking, very heartbreaking.
"John was in great, great shape. He was the owner of a gym here in town, he's a golfer and he never drank," Skinner said. "But I think heart problems are hereditary in his family."
Skinner and Nuttall, both 50 years old, were best of friends. So much so that they served as best man at each other's wedding.
"It's heartbreaking to lose such a wonderful individual at this young of age," Skinner said. "Especially for his wife Beth and his kids, Brett and Craig. It's sad for them to lose such a nice man at this stage in their life."
Skinner also said it was a very tough situation for his friends and teammates who were on the ice with him when he had the heart attack.
"The Sunday night and Monday night crew was out playing for the first time this year," Skinner said. "It was discussed prior to going out that it was going to be low key and nobody was going to go bumping or banging or rushing or anything like that."
Nuttall was in the corner digging for the puck with Glen O'Byrne and when O'Byrne skated up the ice he looked back and noticed Nuttall was down on the ice.
"Glen O'Byrne and David Estabrooks performed CPR and they used the defibrillator but when the paramedics arrived, from what I understand, he was gone."
The paramedics said the response was quick and professional.
"After he went into cardiac arrest, CPR was administered by bystanders and the AED (automated external defibrillator) was accessed and used," Colin Flynn, the operational supervisor for Emergency Health Services for Amherst and District, said.
"The first paramedic on the scene said she was very impressed with the efforts of the bystanders. It was a very fast response time but unfortunately this was one of those cases where the best response time didn't help."
Nuttall was very active in the 'Wake Up Call' program whereby athletes who participate in recreation leagues are encouraged to get regular physical checkups.
"It's a Canada-wide program where we say to the guys, 'don't be afraid to see the doctor and get a checkup," Skinner said. "Don't think it can't happen to you, because it can. It happens everywhere, everyday and unfortunately it happened here, right now.
"John participated in the program and went to the doctor faithfully," Skinner said. "If it can happen to him it can happen to anybody. It just breaks your heart, it knocks you out."
Obituary Page 6