After Collapsing on the Ice, This Hockey Player Found a New Passion

Retirement came early for Providence College hockey player Garrett Gamez after he collapsed in a game and was diagnosed with sustained ventricular arrhythmias. Although he could no longer play, the team invited him to work as a team assistant — and he found a passion for coaching.

Video production credit: Providence College
Senior Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations: Mike Billings
Athletic Video Coordinator: Nick Rojas

Video Transcript

Narrator: In the back of most athletes’ minds are the thoughts of retirement, the time when he or she will make the decision to hang them up and walk away from the sport they love. Unfortunately for Garrett Gamez, that decision was made for him last year when hockey’s playoff game during his sophomore season ended with him collapsing on the bench due to a heart condition.

Garrett Gamez: It’s called sustained ventricular arrhythmias. The game obviously against Notre Dame was the first time that I realized that I had something like this. I had felt it the night before. I was in the hospital for 12 days before I came to Providence as a freshman. That stuff was a bit hard to find out when we have no evidence of anything happening until just now. The first time that I realized, it was the game when I did collapse.

Narrator: In one of the toughest two days of his life, Garrett still found a silver lining to an otherwise grim situation.

Garrett Gamez: After the collapse, it was honestly, I think it was the best situation I could’ve had given the circumstances. Mr. Driskell actually came with me in the ambulance to the hospital. He stayed with me until after the game where Kyle Murphy came, and he stayed with me overnight. I also had a family that was watching that was my billet family when I was playing juniors in Nebraska. They were able to come to the hospital with me and be able to talk to my parents.

Narrator: After a few months of testing and waiting, late in the summer, Garrett made the difficult choice.

Garrett Gamez: We knew all along that was the problem. It was just were they happening more than I wanted them to, and if so, is this something that has concerns over my health, over my life? On August 7, that’s when I made the decision to retire.

Narrator: Retirement may have come easier to Garrett after head coach Nate Leaman told him that there was still a spot for him in Friartown.

Garrett Gamez: After making that decision, I gave him a call up, and he just told me, he goes, “You’re making the right decision and the best decision for your life and for your family.” Then, he’s like well, now, you’re going to be working with [Teriso a lot, and us and you’re going to sit in on all the meetings and stuff like that. I had a lot of fun with it, doing video with Teriso or talking to the team, talking with the coaches. It’s been a big eye opener to me as well, seeing the coaching side and seeing how many different aspects come into having a successful organization. That’s been pretty awesome to see.

Narrator: Garrett is on track to graduate from Providence with an accounting and finance degree. While he has considered a career in accounting before his incident, this brief stint in coaching has his interest peaked.

Garrett Gamez: It’s one of the things where we at some point in our lives always think, what are we going to do after hockey? I’ve always thought I want to pursue accounting, I’m going to pursue finance. Now having this little jump back and looking at this, it has inspired me a little bit to get into coaching or something like that, or if not, I know I’ll have a great degree in finance and accounting to stand back on and pursue accounting.

Narrator: Over the course of one summer, he went from being Garrett the teammate to Garrett the assistant coach. For him, the transition has given him the opportunity to stop focusing on his own game and focus on helping others improve theirs.

Garrett Gamez: I try to do it mostly in a friendly nature. I’m not going to be here telling the guys you need to do this, you need to do that. If someone does need a talking to, I’m sure coach is there to do that. With that being said, it’s been a good time. I’ve been able to really look at guys play and maybe give them tips on stuff where when you’re playing, you’re just focus on yourself. Watching guys on the ice and obviously seeing what they do, I can give them tips and stuff to help them or tell them what coach is looking for more or be that soft guidance to help them with whatever they need help with.

Narrator: While graduation is still off in the distance, Garrett has ideas for how he plans to handle his post Providence College career. For this decision, much like many others in his life, he’s looking for guidance from above.

Garrett Gamez: Well, I’m engaged, so I’ll be married. Just trying to get our life started and the stuff like that and really either coaching or working in the business field somewhere. It’s either one of the two ways. I’m praying a lot about it saying God, what do you want me to do next? And leaving it at that for now.

Narrator: For Friars All Access, I’m Nick Rojas.

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