A 16-year-old minor hockey player in Edmonton has died after he was hit in the throat by a puck in what has been called a "freak accident."
Kyle Fundytus died after blocking a shot during the midget double-A game Saturday afternoon at the Clareview Arena.
He was taken to Royal Alexandra Hospital and surgery was performed, the South Side Athletic Club confirmed on its website. The boy died Sunday.
The South Side Athletic Club, where Fundytus played, called him "a model player and a dedicated teammate."
In a statement on its website, the team said: "His passion and enthusiasm for the game and life exemplifies traits of not just a great hockey player, but also a great person. Kyle’s sudden passing has shocked family, friends and the hockey community. Kyle will be deeply missed by all."
Hundreds of messages of condolence were posted on Twitter using the hashtag #prayforfundy.
Death called an anomaly
Observers are characterizing the accident as an anomaly. Fatalities in the minor leagues are rare on the whole, with more concern centred on injuries and the long-term effects of concussions.
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New rules around intentional and accidental hits to the head were introduced this year to keep players safer and perhaps encourage more hesitant parents to register their kids.
Other hockey fatalities
1937 — Canadiens forward Howie Morenz, 34, died weeks after a vicious leg injury that broke his bone in four places.
1968 — Bill Masterson, 29, hit his head on the ice after being hit by two opponents. He was not wearing a helmet, and died two days after the fall.
1997 — Saskatchewan junior player Graham Christie died after being struck in the chest by a puck during a game.
2002 — Hockey fan Brittanie Cecil, 13, died three days after being struck in the head by a puck during a game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames.
2008 — New York Rangers draft pick Alexei Cherepanov, 19, died after collapsing on the bench during a Continental Hockey League game in Russia.
2009 — Don Sanderson, 21, a defenceman for the Whitby Dunlops, was struck on the head during a fight and died three weeks later.
2009 — Jessica Pickard, 15, of Holmesville, N.B., collapsed and died after her competitive midget C team played an exhibition game.
Support shot up for mandatory neck guards after Richard Zednik of the Florida Panthers nearly had his carotid artery severed by a teammate's skate blade in 2008 — but the neck guard was not designed to prevent what happened to Fundytus.
Hockey Canada states that the intent of the neck guard is to protect against skate blades, but not impact from sticks or fast-moving pucks. It is mandatory in all minor and female hockey.
Although it may be cold comfort to a community in mourning, it seems that little could have been done to prevent the Fundytus tragedy.
"It’s a one off," said Emile Therien, former president of the Canada Safety Council. "It’s a very, very fast game played by kids who are big and strong."
He described the incident as "an unfortunate tragedy," adding that, even though every part of the body is protected, such accidents can still happen.
Betty Schmilar, president of Hockey Edmonton, the league's governing body, told CBC News it was a "freak accident."
She said the player was wearing proper equipment. "He just took a puck in the neck the wrong way."