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He was always destined for a lifelong career in hockey.
The first plan was always as a player, but even as a teenager Rich Peverley had his eye on a potential future on the business side of the sport.
“It’s something I always wanted to do, I always wanted to work in hockey” Peverley said. “It intrigued me and I’ve always enjoyed the game. It’s something that I always felt would be the next step after I finished playing.”
For Peverley it was a backup plan he never thought he’d have to embrace in his early 30s.
Only 34, Peverley is three years removed from the night his heart stopped on the bench after completing a shift six minutes into the Dallas Stars game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center on March 10, 2014.
Peverley still looks like he could play in the NHL, his former teammate Tyler Seguin said the center would “still be one of the best face-off guys in the NHL,” and he’s had a clean bill of health since the incident.
But Peverley made the difficult decision to retire after sitting out the 2014-15 season.
“I could have kept looking around to find a way to play, but it wasn’t worth it,” Peverley said. “I had a family, and my new job made it a lot easier. I’m very thankful for the Stars helping me make that transition.”
Peverley is now the Player Development Coordinator for the Stars, a role he worked to create with Stars general manager Jim Nill during the 2014-15 season as he spent time in Dallas working closely with several of the Stars top executives.
“It would have been easy to say, ‘Ok, Rich, you’ve got a year left on your contract, have a good life,’” Nill said. “But it was important for us to not just throw him to the side of the street. Even if it wasn’t in hockey, we wanted to help him. But he showed a passion for staying in the game.”
Peverley has always been a student of the game. He was an undrafted college free agent who worked his way up from the ECHL and won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Boston Bruins. In total, he pieced together 442 NHL games for four different teams over eight NHL seasons.
“I think he understands player development better than a lot of people that have been in those roles for a long time,” Nill said. “He had to work and earn everything in his playing career. So when he works with and talks to a young kid, it comes from a place of understanding.”
And Peverley has turned into the Stars official liaison to many of their prospects. He’s based in Guelph, Ontario and often watches prospects in the CHL or college. He also makes two trips each season to Europe, and recently spent a week in Finland.
“Working with him is great,” Stars 2016 first-round pick Riley Tufte, who is a freshman at Minnesota-Duluth, said. “You don’t get that opportunity very often to talk to and work with a guy that was a high-level NHL player like him and someone who probably could still be playing.”
Across the board, Stars prospects have raved about working with Peverley.
“He notices and helps you with the little things on the ice, the things you might not think to notice,” Stars prospect Nicholas Caamano, who is playing for the Flint Firebirds, said. “On top of that, off the ice you can make a connection. You can really tell he’s got your best interest in mind.”
While the prospects have raved about Peverley, the former Stanley Cup champion has been thrilled to work with younger players.
“I really enjoy it, it’s really been a lot of fun,” Peverley said. “The guys that we have are all really good prospects, and they’re all really good people as well. Which makes it a lot more enjoyable. You have guys that want to learn and are willing and humble and willing to learn, it makes your life a little bit easier.
And since his retirement Peverley said he’s enjoyed being able to spend more time with his family. He and his wife Nathalie have three children Isabelle, 7, Frederik 4, and 1-year-old Elena.
“I’m still busy and traveling, but it’s not nearly what it was during my playing career,” Peverley said. “When I’m home I get to be engaged with my kids and spend more time with them. There are some busy times, but overall we spend more time as a family.”
Peverley has also dedicated time to helping run his charity, Pevs Protects, which is raising money to donate AEDs and promote heart health.
Later this month the Stars will hold Pevs Protects Day on Feb. 26 against the Bruins, Peverley’s former team. Similar events have also been held by the Guelph Storm in the OHL, Peverley’s home-town team.
During that game the American Heart Association will also be holding CPR demonstrations in Victory Plaza. During the contest, Peverley will also be signing autographs in the concourse at American Airlines Center during each intermission. Players will also be using red stick tape during warmups in support of Pevs Protects and the American Heart Association.
“I’m lucky that I’m put in a position to help people and connect, it was unfortunate how it happened, but I’ve been able to meet a great amount of people who have had some mishaps in their lives and and issues like I did,” Peverley said. “I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to connect with people like that, and that we both are here to talk about it when those discussions happen.”
Between dad duty, his commitment to the Stars, and helping run his charity, Peverley said he’s happy taking it one day at a time. However, he wouldn’t mind continuing to climb up the ladder in the management side of the game.
“When I was younger, even when I was playing, I always thought I wanted to be a general manager. And I still think that that’s the goal,” Peverley said. “I have three young kids now, I like to be at home with my kids and I like to see my kids grow up. If it works out, that’s great. But right now I’m not thinking too far ahead.”