Montreal Canadiens rethink throwing pucks into stands after baby hit
'I don't know if it's bad luck or if it's something that teams should stop doing,' says Max Pacioretty
Brendan Gallagher recalls hanging out at Edmonton Oilers games as a child looking to catch pucks tossed over the glass by players.
"You'd stand by the glass, and if you got a puck, it was pretty cool," the Montreal Canadiens right-winger said Tuesday. "I got a couple.
"Ryan Smyth used to throw three pucks over after every warm-up. Now, every warm-up, I find a little kid and throw a puck to them. You try to be as careful as you can."
The long-standing practice of tossing pucks to fans took a scary turn this week when a mother posted on social media that her one-month-old daughter suffered a concussion when hit by a puck that she said was flipped into the crowd by Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban.
It raised two issues: whether tossing pucks is safe and whether infants should be allowed in the stands at hockey games or, in this case, at practice.
Canadiens spokesman Donald Beauchamp said the club will review the incident to see if changes are needed.
It appears to have been a freak accident.
As they have done for many years at the end of their annual free practice, which draws a full house of families with children, players tossed souvenir pucks over the glass at Bell Centre on Sunday.
Valerie Meloche posted that one puck deflected off someone and landed on her baby Beatrice's head, causing a concussion. The infant was treated on site and taken to the Montreal Children's Hospital.
She was released the following day and was doing well.
"First and foremost, we're very happy the baby's OK," said Gallagher. "It was scary when we heard about it.
"You try to be careful when you're throwing them in there," he said. "You try to pick out a little kid to throw it to but you're also trying to find a parent to catch the puck for them. I try to throw it to a kid in the first row so it lobs, and if they miss it, it's not going to hurt them."
Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said the issue has not arisen before and it's hard to say what can be done.
"People have been throwing pucks in the stands for years and I never heard of a story like that," he said. "I don't know if it's bad luck or if it's something that teams should stop doing.
"We're just thankful everything's OK. You've got to be careful. I tell that to my wife when she's there with my boys, even though she's always watching the play and they're higher up."
Subban, who pledged $10 million to the Children's Hospital last summer, was not available for comment after practice Tuesday. Beauchamp said the defenceman was unaware the baby was hit at the time but was very upset when told about it and wants to meet with the family.
The club invited the family, which has four children, to watch a game at Bell Centre in the Canadiens Children's Foundation suite.