Graduate receives award for saving life of high school hockey player

Eric Schwab saved the life of Conor Place.
Eric Schwab saved the life of Conor Place.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

Grand Valley graduate Eric Schwab recently was honored with a civilian award for saving a 15-year-old hockey player’s life at a Hazel Park ice arena.

The emergency arose at a practice Schwab was attending as an athletic trainer, a position he started in September with the Henry Ford Health System. He oversees all of the athletic teams at University of Detroit Jesuit High School.

“I’ve never thought I’d really have to use my skills, especially with a 15-year-old athlete,” Schwab said. “You always expect that if you’d have to use them, it would be for a referee, or parent or grandparent in the stands, or a coach -- not necessarily one of your high school athletes.”

During the school’s Christmas break, Schwab decided to attend the boys’ hockey practice as a way to get to know team members better. In the middle of practice, player Conor Place collapsed on the ice. After quick action from Schwab -- giving two rounds of CPR and one shock from the automated external defibrillator (AED) -- Schwab was able to restore Place’s pulse before EMS arrived.

“I kind of say it’s a little bit of divine intervention, and we’re super grateful and super happy that I was in the right place at the right time and everything worked out because who knows what would have happened if I wasn’t there,” Schwab said.

Last month, Schwab was honored with a civilian award at a Hazel Park City Council meeting. While he feels grateful for the award, he insists this was just part of his job.

“That’s what athletic trainers are trained to do, to act in life-saving situations, emergency situations,” he said. “To me, it’s great that they honored me, but I feel like I was just doing my job.”

Originally from Muskegon, Schwab graduated from Grand Valley in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. He went on to receive his master’s degree in kinesiology and sports studies from East Tennessee State University and worked as an athletic trainer in various hospitals and schools in the south. He says the training he received in classes at Grand Valley gave him the confidence he has today.

“After the news articles came out I actually sent an email to all three professors that I had at Grand Valley -- Dr. Hatzel, Dr. Bartz and Dr. Parker -- and just told them that I wanted to reiterate my thanks to them,” he said. “I feel like their hard work prepared me to act as an extremely confident and good athletic trainer through my schooling, the classes that we take with them and how they teach the courses. They prepared us as athletic training students to go out and be successful in the field.”

Today, Place is getting back on the ice as a student coach while he waits for the go-ahead to start playing again.

“I’m super grateful I was put in the place to save Conor’s life and that he’s doing really well,” Schwab said. “Whether it’s a higher power, divine intervention, whatever you want to say, I’m just grateful I was there and able to move back to Michigan and get the job with Henry Ford.”

-- written by Olivia Conaty, student writer