TRAVERSE CITY -- On the night of Nov. 21, 2005, Jiri Fischer played in his 305th game with the Detroit Red Wings.
It would turn out to be his last.
But the former No. 1 pick of the Red Wings is back with the team and back on the ice in his new role as director of player development, working with players not much younger than him.
"It's a lot of fun," said Fischer, who looks like he could still play. "I never realized how important it is to be around young people, to be around people who are motivated and fired up to come in and work to do their job.
"That's on a daily basis, it's not just once a week. It's all the guys that are here. They're dedicated individuals who are here to prove to everybody watching -- including themselves -- that they can move up to the pro levels."
Not too long ago, it was Fischer that was moving up the rungs. The 25th overall pick in 1998, Fischer broke in as a defenseman in the 1999-2000 season, picking up eight assists in 52 games.
Fischer, who helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2002, had a career-high four goals among 19 points in 2004.
After the lockout, Fischer played 22 games in 2005. But during a game against the Nashville Predators, Fischer collapsed on the bench and didn't have a pulse.
He was given CPR just off the ice and needed an electric shock -- a defibrillation -- to get his heart working again.
Fischer would recover, but at the age of 25 his playing career was over.
"It was extremely hard to deal with," he said. "At the same time, I'm 28. I feel good. There's a lot of guys that retire at 35 and 40 and they can hardly move.
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"So if that was a way to leave the professional hockey scene, then so be it. It's been an extremely hard experience to deal with, but it's getting better."
Getting back on the ice at the NHL Prospects Tournament helps.
During Tuesday's practice session, Fischer was helping run the session. And he had the ears of several of the players.
"It's definitely great having a guy with experience like that," 18-year-old defenseman Brian Lashoff said. "It always helps having a guy who's been there and knows what it takes to be there ... and stay there. I'm definitely listening to everything he says in practice. I'm taking everything he says and using it in practice and games as much as I can."
It's also apparent that Fischer likes being out on the ice again as well.
While players were on one end of the rink, Fischer couldn't resist firing a few shots from the half boards at goaltending prospect Thomas McCollum. After failing to find the net from a bad angle, Fischer even skated in and tried to deke the 18-year-old, eventually sending a shot into the goal off the left post.
Later, Fischer played referee and was dropping the puck so that first Cory Emmerton and Justin Abdelkader and then Randy Cameron and Francis Pare could get work on faceoffs.
After the Prospects Tournament concludes tonight, Fischer will stay in town for the Red Wings training camp, which begins on Saturday. After getting a chance to catch up with former teammates, Fischer will head back to Detroit for a while before checking in with some of the team's younger prospects.
"The role is pretty broad," Fischer says of his position. "It's basically following up the progress of the youth we have in this organization. It's all the young guys that are here.
"Some of them are going to be moving up to the pro level. But it's also a lot of the college players that we're missing. We have a lot of draft picks that are playing in colleges who would lose their eligibility to be a part of this tournament."
However Fischer's position is defined this season or in seasons to come, he's happy to still be a part of the only professional organization he's ever been a part of.
"We have the best management in all of the hockey world," Fischer said. "It shows. It shows in the way we've been competing. Our franchise is that good, that strong and that deep. Everyone is so dedicated.
"Everybody in the front office just works extremely hard. It's good to see."
Fischer said the way the Red Wings are run starts with owners Mike and Marian Ilitch. But that's something he's already known from being on the other side of the glass.
"It really started since I got drafted," he said. "There's a lot of personal approach that we have in the organization. The Ilitch family, they've just been phenomenal.
"They know all of us by first name. I haven't played for three years and they still remember me. It's really impressive. It's a great environment to work in and to perform for people like that, if it's on the ice or doing what I've been doing."
Still, Fischer would love to still be on the ice playing. Of course, the change in his hockey career path was made that night when his heart stopped beating on the bench.
"It wasn't really my decision that I didn't play anymore," Fischer said. "The cardiac arrest kind of made the decision for me."
Fischer said he's still not sure what led his heart to stop beating that night against the Predators.
"At first, the only priority I had was, 'Let's figure out why it happened so I can prevent it from happening again.' " Fischer said. "But the answers are fairly limited. There are no sure answers.
"A hundred people go through cardiac arrest and there's a hundred different reasons. There's never one thing."
With help from medical personnel, Fischer said he's gotten better.
"I learned enough to really take it and use it in my therapy and it's been awesome," he said. "I've been on a therapy plan for two years. It started about a half a year after my cardiac arrest and things have been amazingly getting better.
"I'm back to exercising and -- more importantly -- I don't have that fear that I had right after it happened. I was very uncomfortable even raising my heart rate. I literally felt I was going to die any second, every time I felt a heart palpitation or when I would feel my heart rate accelerating out of the blue.
"It was a very scary time in my life. You realize how much family and friends are important."
Not to mention Fischer's hockey family and friends.
"Family and health are No. 1," he said. "When I was playing, hockey was No. 1. Priorities have shifted."