11-year-old dies days after getting hit by a puck during hockey practice in Saint-Eustache

“Heartbreaking,” said Mike Filippone, a Montreal Elite Nationals coach, about the 11-year-old hockey player who died after being hit by a puck, reportedly in the throat, during practice in Saint-Eustache, Quebec. Gareth Madoc-Jones reports.

By News Staff

An 11-year-old hockey player in Saint-Eustache, northwest of Montreal, died days after getting hit by a puck Tuesday night in what is being called an “unfortunate accident” during a practice. On Friday morning, local police confirmed the player died of their injuries.

“This morning, we were saddened to learn of the child’s death. We would like to offer to the family, friends and loved ones. The Police department has notified the Coroner’s Office and will assist with the investigation, which is still underway. This investigation aims to shed light on the causes and circumstances of the death,” said Service de police de la Ville de Saint-Eustache in a press release.

On Tuesday, a call was placed to 911 for medical assistance at Complexe Walter-Buswell (arenas), located on boulevard Arthur-Sauvé.

Police officers and paramedics quickly arrived on the scene.

“During regular ice hockey practice, an 11-year-old boy was accidentally injured. Investigations to date have concluded that this was an unfortunate accident,” authorities had said on Wednesday.

On Thursday – they confirmed that the young hockey player was wearing all the required protective equipment.

The news of this tragic incident has shaken the local hockey community in Montreal.

“First, my heart goes out to the parents, the family and everyone in the Saint-Eustache community,” said Montreal Elite Nationals coach Mike Filippone.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear he passed away.”

These types of injuries are not common, but can be life threatening

“It’s obviously a very tragic accident. It’s not something that we see very often,” said Dr. Christopher Labos, a Montreal epidemiologist and cardiologist about the incident. He is not involved in the boy’s treatment.

“Especially with hockey, where you have a hard puck and it goes directly to the throat – it could potentially compromise the airway and that would be an emergency.” 

Dr. Labos says that in any type of medical emergency, whenever you have a prolonged period of time where there is no oxygen being delivered to the brain, “you are causing permanent, often irreversible damage to the brain and to the other organ system.”

He adds that while these types of injuries are not common, they can be life threatening if the wrong set of circumstances come together.

Is better protective equipment needed?

The current neck protectors are really about protecting against slashing injuries to the neck, but Dr. Labos says they’re not protecting against blunt trauma to the neck.

“Could you devise something that might be more protective in this setting? You know, very possibly you’re going to have to look not just at providing protection, but also making something that is comfortable and easy to wear and still provide some degree of flexibility. But it’s certainly something that could be done.”

Dr. Labos adding that in the vast majority of circumstances – hockey goes well. “I think it should at least have a conversation about whether the protective equipment needs to be updated. I think that’s a reasonable thing to have. And if you can come up with a neck guard that protects not just against slashing injuries, but also against one trauma, that would probably be for the good. Because again, it’s patient safety and it’s player safety. And if there’s a simple intervention that prevents even a one in a million accidents like this, I don’t think most people would object to it.”

Montreal Canadiens’ forward Trent McCleary was hit in the throat with a hockey puck in 2000 during a game. He required life-saving surgery moments after being escorted off the ice.

The most recent incident in Saint-Eustache has caused some minor hockey players in Montreal to also reflect on the effectiveness of their current neck protectors.

“It’s been a while that the neck guard hasn’t really evolved. It’s pretty much been the same for the years, so I think it’s time to add some more protection around the neck guard,” said Michael Raposo, a defenceman for the Montreal Elite Nationals, adding, “because you can see like elbow pads and knee pads, they got a lot bigger and more protective.”

“Yeah, that might be a good idea, maybe to like invent something that’s like maybe with more protection on it,” said Lester B. Pearson Kings goalie Leo Barkoulas. “Just to like protect everybody and protect them for anything like pucks, skates, hits, anything.”

Complexe Walter-Buswell Saint-Eustache arenas
Complexe Walter-Buswell (Saint-Eustache arenas) on Dec. 15, 2023. (CREDIT: Martin Daigle, CityNews Image)

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