Skip to main content


Best Of 2019-20, Number 5: Because A Plan Was In Place, An Official’s Life Was Saved

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2020 - 11:58 AM

Here's story No. 5 on my list of favorites from the 2019-20 school year. It was originally published on Oct. 7.

KIMBALL – When veteran football official Mike Canfield went down with a cardiac issue during a junior varsity game here last week, a plan to save his life was already in place. And because the plan was executed to perfection, Mike is still with us.
Here's the end of the story: surgeons placed two coronary artery stents near Mike's heart and he’s in recovery mode. The 71-year-old from Waite Park is eternally grateful that coaches and others followed the MSHSL Emergency Action Plan advice and were ready when the emergency happened.

"We did have a plan," said Kimball activities director Byron Westrich, “and one of my coaches texted me right away, saying ‘Thank goodness you had that plan.’ It worked like clockwork.”

Emergency Action Plans are simple. Everyone on hand knows their role. When Canfield collapsed on the field during the third quarter of a game between Morris and Kimball, Kimball head coach Johnny Benson did his job and went right to Canfield; assistant coaches Jamie Liether and Jake Gagne did their jobs and ran to get AEDs (automated external defibrillators); assistant coach Joe Anderson called 911 and continued to do his job when an ambulance arrived, directing the crew to Mike’s location.

Mike Schindler, a former Kimball wrestling coach who is a firefighter and trained first responder, has a son on the football team and was watching from the stands. He was chatting with a buddy when he saw the official collapse. Schindler ran to Canfield. His description of what happened is gripping.

“He was seizing, he went limp. Two AEDs were there right away, which was awesome. We got one hooked up and it told us to shock right away. We started (chest) compressions; we did four rounds of 30 compressions with breath between each 30, then we saw that he was breathing. We checked for a pulse and we got the pulse back.”

A couple from Morris, Paige and Rich Hardy, performed CPR. Paige is a nurse at Stevens Community Medical Center in Morris and Rich is an athletic trainer at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

Canfield was conscious but not very alert when he was loaded into the ambulance, bound for St. Cloud Hospital. He became fully alert, however, as they were about five miles out of Kimball.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve never seen that before,” Schindler said. “It was awesome.

“I’ve performed CPR way too many times. There was a group of people that did the job, got stuff done that needed to be done. Everything clicked.”

Canfield has been officiating for 48 years and no longer works varsity games, but he is one of countless officials who are committed to making sure the games go on and student-athletes have great experiences.

“Everybody did their job without hesitation and together saved a life,” Leither said. “The plan that was put together for us worked to a T. I hope we never have to use the plan again, but we know that it does work.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio

Next Article

Best Of 2019-20, Number 4: Selfless Moorhead Athlete Makes A Wish For Others