Acadia hockey player taking nothing for granted after OT heart attack

Published on March 21, 2017

Brendan Childerley’s season with the Acadia Axemen was unexpectedly cut short when he suffered a heart attack during an intermission between overtime periods in a Feb. 23 semifinal match against St. FX.


WOLFVILLE, N.S. - Brendan Childerley has no recollection of the moments leading up to the heart attack that brought his university hockey career to an abrupt end.

“My memory from a couple days before the game, to when I woke up in the hospital… is completely gone,” the skilled Acadia Axemen forward hailing from Stratford, Ont. recalls in a phone interview March 21.

Childerley started to feel ill during an intermission that followed the first overtime period of Acadia’s Feb. 23 semifinal game against the Antigonish-based St. FX team.

He’s since had help filling in some of the gaps to learn what happened in the traumatic moments when the Axemen’s trainers and team doctor, local paramedics and cardiologist Adam Clarke became the all-stars.

Childerley was rushed to a medical room and treated for cardiac arrest. The 24-year-old business student was resuscitated with the use of a defibrillator and CPR, and later transferred to a Halifax hospital for surgery to clear a blocked artery.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget how fortunate I was to have the right people (at that game), and how fortunate I am to be here today,” said Childerley.

“I had an opportunity to meet them all after, which was awesome, and… thank them for what they did.”

An influential player

Childerley was released from hospital in time to travel to Fredericton, N.B. for the U Sports Championship, where he watched the Axemen down St. FX 7-3 to win bronze at nationals.

“How they played was unbelievable in my eyes… they worked hard all year for it so it was nice to see them get rewarded for it,” he said.

Axemen hockey head coach Darren Burns believes Childerley’s presence gave Acadia’s players some added motivation at nationals.

[Acadia Axemen come home with bronze medals from nationals]  

“It was huge to have him there because I think he and his family taught us a lot about strength and courage,” he said.

“He’s such an extremely well-respected guy.”

Childerley joined the Axemen’s roster this season after St. Thomas University’s team was disbanded, Burns said. Before STU, he played with the OHL's Brampton Battalion.

“We contacted him right away,"  Burns said.

Childerley didn’t disappoint, recording 19 points – 11 goals and eight assists - in 30 games with the Axemen.

“He’s a kid that every parent would want their children looking up to. You can tell in speaking to him he’s a class act, and we’re so proud of him,” said Burns.

“He did a lot for our program in a very short time.”

Moving forward

Now expected to make a full recovery, Childerley is learning to adjust to a slower pace of life as he lets his body heal.

“I can’t do everything that I was doing quite yet, so it’s difficult at times but I’m feeling really good, so I couldn’t be luckier,” he said.

The weeks that followed the heart attack have been challenging, but Childerley’s thankful to have the opportunity to spend more time living in the moment.

“I’m actually done with competitive hockey. It was some tough news but my health is more important and I’ve got bigger things to look forward to now,” he said.

“I was playing for 20 years and had the chance to play at a high level and the game has given me more than I could ever give back, so I’m pretty fortunate that I was able to play as long as I did.”

He’ll fondly remember how “the hockey world” rallied around his family after the heart attack, and he’s moving forward with a bright outlook on life.

“I think I’m just going to kick my feet up and relax and just enjoy myself for a bit,” he said.

“It kind of just makes you realize that you can’t take anything for granted and no one’s going to be here forever, so enjoy things while you can.”