Brittanie Nichole Cecil (March 20, 1988 – March 18, 2002) was a hockey fan who died from injuries suffered when a puck was deflected into the stands and struck her in the left temple at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on March 16, 2002. It was the first fan fatality in the NHL's history.
A native of West Alexandria, Ohio, a small farming suburb of Dayton, Brittanie was an avid sports fan and soccer player, competing in a state tournament with her team, the Orange Crush, at eleven years old. Upon qualifying for the state tournament, mayor Carol Lunsford declared the day Orange Crush Day. Brittanie attended Twin Valley South Middle School as a cheerleader, student council member and an honor student.
Brittanie had been watching the Columbus Blue Jackets play the Calgary Flames on March 16, 2002, on tickets received as an early gift from her father for her 14th birthday. A shot by the Blue Jackets' Espen Knutsen was deflected by the Flames' Derek Morris and went over the glass behind the net, striking her in the left temple. Play carried on as the players were unaware of having caused any serious injury. In fact, although Brittanie had suffered a skull fracture, she walked to a first-aid station before being taken to Columbus Children's Hospital in an ambulance with her only visible injury being a gash on her forehead. At the hospital, she suffered an initial seizure and was admitted, but the next day she appeared to be recovering, both communicative and ambulatory, and without complaints of pain or dizziness. A CT-scan, however, had failed to catch a torn vertebral artery, resulting in severe clotting and swelling of the brain. On March 18, she developed a high fever and lost consciousness. She died nearly 48 hours after being struck, at 5:15 p.m. on March 18, 2002.
Brittanie's funeral was held at Preble Memory Gardens Chapel near West Alexandria, after which a procession of more than 150 cars followed the hearse to Fairview Cemetery, where she was buried. Attending the funeral was Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean, who spoke on behalf of the team.
The Thursday after the incident, a moment of silence was observed for Brittanie at the next Blue Jackets home game, played against the Detroit Red Wings. Her initials "BNC" were worn by the team's players on their helmets for the remainder of the season and the Brittanie Cecil Memorial Fund has since been created, which collects donations at every Blue Jackets home game.
Knutsen and Morris, the two players who combined for the fatal slapshot, expressed remorse following Brittanie's death. Morris, who deflected the puck, explained, "You try to say, 'It happens all the time,' but you can't. I don't know how many times pucks get deflected over the glass, but it doesn't make it any better. You can always say, 'It's not my fault,' but you always feel like it is, a little." Knutsen, who was given the option of sitting out the next game by Blue Jackets coach Dave King but chose to play, told reporters, "I think about it all the time. It was a terrible accident, and I cannot get it off my mind."
Brittanie's death was the first of its kind in the 85-year history of the National Hockey League (NHL). Consequently, the league implemented mandatory netting at either end of the rink in every stadium at the beginning of the next NHL season in 2002–03 to protect spectators from errant pucks.
In April, 2004, a little over two years after Brittanie's death, her parents received $1.2 million in a settlement with the NHL and other groups.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 "Death of a fan", Sports Illustrated, 2002-04-01. Retrieved on 2009-03-25.
- ↑ "How she died", Sports Illustrated, April 1, 2002. Retrieved on 29 March 2009.
- ↑ http://www.bncmemorial.org/index.html
- ↑ Parents of girl killed by puck receive $1.2 million, USA Today, April 14, 2004
- Brittanie Nichole Cecil Memorial Scholarship Fund
- Columbus Dispatch interview with her family and with Espen Knutsen, published March 21, 2010
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