March 19, 2002

Girl, 13, Dies After Being Hit by Puck at NHL Game: Since this happened in my home town of Columbus, Ohio I thought I'd bring this to everyone's attention. Supposedly this is the first time this has ever happened in an NHL game although the word is that it has happened before in minor league games. I apologize for the Yahoo link but the Toronto Globe and Mail and USA Today insist on posting her picture which I thought was in poor taste. Don't click on those links unless you want to have your heart broken. I think it's been awhile since something shook me up this much.

I hope the league does something to lessen the chances of this happening again. Scuttlebutt on the radio says that they probably won't change anything but when you have a new team in it's second season and it's just starting to get popular I think the last thing you want to do is scare the fans into staying home.

posted by dgeiser13 to hockey at 11:42 PM - 10 comments

It is sad when someone dies while watching a sporting event, but let's put this in perspective: 1 death in over 80 years of NHL hockey. More people have died watching baseball, and there is no push to ring the entire stadium with netting. And the objective in baseball is (for most players) hit the ball where the fans are sitting (outfield bleachers)! There really isn't much that the league can do to lessen the chances of this happening again without getting ridiculous. The plexiglass behind the nets is probably as high as it can get without becoming weak/unstable. Adding netting above that would obscure the view of a large number of fans seated higher than the first 20 rows and they'd lose attendance in a hurry for those seats. You may argue "safety before all else", but there has to be a limit to what you can protect against. This was a fluke of the highest order. Untold millions of fans have attended NHL games and only one has died. Sure, that's one too many for my liking but it isn't something to get panicked about.

posted by grum@work at 07:41 AM on March 20, 2002

This has been bothering me especially, since my dad and I have seasons tickets to Blue Jackets games in Columbus with a group of hockey fans(usually for about 5 games a year). I can't hel thinking it could have been one of my sisters. This is a really sad story.

posted by insomnyuk at 11:21 AM on March 20, 2002

I'm not sure I would describe it as a fluke. Considering how fast some of them go into the stands, and other reported injuries at different hockey venues over the years, it seems like it was only a matter of time before one seriously injured a fan. I'd like to see the NHL or some other hockey group explore the possibility of safety netting, even if the conclusion is that it hampers too much visibility to implement. Reading about some of the other injuries caused by pucks, it sounds like the U.S. and Canada should mandate a minimum height for the glass at new hockey rinks. One thing I've read on another weblog is that people should pay complete attention to the puck so they can avoid something like this. How fast do pucks go, though? I don't think you can be alert enough to keep your eye on them well enough to dodge one if it has your name on it.

posted by rcade at 12:03 PM on March 20, 2002

Upwards of 100 miles per hour on the big slapshots. Here is a list (scroll down) of some of the premier NHL shooters. So Al MacInnis' shot of 172.81 kph would roughly convert to 106 miles per hour, that's pretty damn fast.

posted by insomnyuk at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2002

It's not travelling 106mph when it gets into the stands though. To reach the stands, it has to be deflected by another object (stick, crossbar). You just can't shoot a puck directly over the glass if you are attempting to score. The angle is all wrong, unless you are shooting from centre ice, in which case it will barely be going 60mph when it gets over the glass and you'll have significant time to react. That deflection is going to significantly cut down on the speed. However, the deflection also causes a change in direction and that can be a problem. I agree that you have to keep your eye on the puck. Not all the time (when it's in the other end or there is a face off), but definitely have an idea that when a player shoots in your general direction (and you're seats are above the top of the glass) there is a chance it could come your way. In this tragic story, the puck didn't even hit the poor girl directly. It bounced off someone else and then hit her. It really and truly is a fluke occurance. You're more likely to get injured in a brawl in the stands or stumbling down the exit stairs than you are by getting hit by a puck.

posted by grum@work at 01:11 PM on March 20, 2002

I feel absolutely awful for that girl and her family, but we shouldn't be changing the game or the rink becuase of it. A net? It's going to be an eyesore, and as callous as this sounds, one weird death doesn't warrant a big change like that. I think we're being a little overcautious here.

posted by Samsonov14 at 01:19 PM on March 20, 2002

I propose a Star Wars (Reagan, not Skywalker) system where if a puck is determined to be over the glass, a laser will shoot it and break it into pieces.

posted by gyc at 02:42 PM on March 20, 2002

More information about the cause of death.

posted by grum@work at 02:59 PM on March 20, 2002

This article says that she in fact DID get hit by the puck first. In the left temple, in fact. The article also includes a lot more detail about the incident. The AP news story wasn't informative at all, compared to this. As someone who has blocked shots before, I can tell you it hurts, and if you get hit in the ankle, you'll probably get a compound fracture. Same thing for the head. I've been hit in the ribs a few times by shots that weren't going all that fast, and it's taken the wind out of me, and left nasty bruises. The puck was deflected into the stands by Derek Morris, a Calgary defenseman. He was trying to stop Espen Knutsen's shot. His blade was lying on the ice at an angle, so the puck was deflected up. Brittanie was in the 19th row, section 121. I usually sit in the 12th row. The stands are pretty steep, so row 19 is fairly close to the ice. If the defenseman was standing close to the net, that means the puck would have only had to travel about 30 feet to hit her. Espen doesn't have a very hard shot, so let's say that the puck was traveling about 65 miles per hour. That means the puck would have been going 95 feet per second. It wouldn't deccelerate too much in that space anyway. Now imagine sitting here (about 10 rows back from where the photo was taken). A slap shot from the blue line or the top of the circle gets deflected down low, and you have less than 4/10ths of a second to react? Even if it did deflect off of someone else first, would anyone be able to get out of the way in time? And if it did slow down, one pound of vulcanized rubber hitting at 50 mph, well, that's a lot of pressure in one spot.

posted by insomnyuk at 03:06 PM on March 20, 2002

Girl's death raises concern for fans' safety. Here is the only national article I've seen which addresses what some of the repercussions for fan's safety might be. I read somewhere that an average of 3 to 8 pucks are launched into the audience in average game. Personally I think if an accident is preventable then you should do whatever you can to prevent it. If it happened once it can happen again. And next time they can't say that it was a fluke. I bet if the NHL wanted to they could approach a research company and explore options for some sort of mono-filament netting which would be practically invisible to the crowd but would still serve quite well to stop the pucks.

posted by dgeiser13 at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2002

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.