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October 07, 2015

Jamie Rivers

Who says you can't go home?

Thirteen years after the Blues made mobile defenseman Jamie Rivers a third-round pick in the 1993 draft, and seven years since he was claimed by the New York Islanders in the waiver draft, Rivers returned to St. Louis to complete his NHL career in 2006-07.

It had been a rollercoaster journey for Rivers, to say the least.

"Well, the last couple of years have been weird, especially with the lockout year (2004-05)," Rivers said. "I had a pretty good year in Detroit before the lockout. Then I came back to Detroit with a new staff, and they had other people in mind. So, I don't think I got any chance there."

After playing 15 games in Detroit, Rivers was traded to Phoenix for a seventh-round selection in the 2006 draft.

"When I got traded to Phoenix, they were great ... (Coyotes coach) Wayne Gretzky gave me a chance to play a lot of minutes," said Rivers, who in junior hockey was once named as the OHL's best defenseman and was a World Junior champion.

He combined for six points in 33 games for Detroit and Phoenix that season, but he was deemed expendable due to some young up and coming talent in Phoenix.

Rivers re-signed with the Blues, partly as an insurance policy as Christian Backman would miss the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery.

Rivers saw it as an opportunity.

"I just asked for an opportunity to contribute, not just be penciled in as the extra guy or the depth guy," he said. "I wanted a chance to play the game. And they've given me that chance. I wanted to prove to the people here and people watching upstairs that I can play and that I can be counted on."

He ended up playing in 31 games with the Blues that season, thanks in part to more injuries on the Blue's back end.

"He's certainly stepped in and done a great job on the power play," said Jamal Mayers, the lone Blue left from Rivers' time in St. Louis. "He's more comfortable with his role now, what he needs to do on the ice. I think that's indicative of how he plays."

But once the Blues got healthy, Rivers was the odd man out. It was back to the minor leagues and he was not offered a new contract in the summer time.

Rivers was not interested in further two-way contracts that paid poorly to ride the buses in the minor leagues. He headed overseas in search of financial security with some larger paychecks from European clubs. He would play in Russia, Switzerland, and Croatia.

His career came to an end while playing in Croatia. He threw a big bodycheck, knocking the other player out cold. That player's head hit Rivers in the chest and ruptured his spleen. Rivers continued to play and was not aware anything was seriously wrong until the next day. he was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery to deal with all of internal bleeding. He actually flatlined for two minutes and 22 seconds. Doctors were certain they lost him. So certain they issued a death certificate while he was still laying on the table.

Rivers came through, much to the surprise of the doctors and nurses in the operating room. They were able to stop the internal bleeding Rivers is fine to this day. But he was never allowed to play hockey again.

He was allowed to keep the death certificate - the most unusual piece in his hockey memorabilia collection.

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