The hockey arena in Salluit is one of a few in Nunavik that doesn’t have netting around the rink to protect spectators from pucks shot from the ice.
That created rare, but fatal consequences April 1, when a slapshot bounced off a net behind the goal area and into the crowd, hitting a child in the head.
The 12-year-old girl died the following morning.
The Northern Village of Salluit was hosting a regional midget tournament March 29 to April 1, coordinated by the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program.
The local arena was packed with fans April 1 for the final gold medal match between a joint Tasiujaq-Ivujivik team and Kuujjuaq, which started at 8:45 p.m.
NYDHP coordinator Stéphane Paquet was in the upper level of the arena watching the game when the puck went over the boards.
“What I saw is the puck hit the net and bounce off into the stands,” he said.
Paquet could see the puck had hit someone, and saw other spectators gather around the young person.
He wasn’t sure if the young woman left right away, or stayed until the end of the game, but it appeared as though she wasn’t too badly injured.
“Nobody was panicking or worried at that time,” he said.
The Kativik Regional Police Force said the young woman went home first, and later complained of not feeling well. At some point during the night, she was taken into the local nursing station.
She died there the morning of April 2.
Police have not released the name of the girl while the KRPF continues to investigate the incident.
Paquet said Salluit is one of the few arenas that doesn’t have protective netting along the side of the rink where the stands are located, as is the case in most of Nunavik’s arenas.
Puvirnituq’s arena, for example, has protective netting around the entire rink.
Paquet said it’s very rare to see fans injured by stray pucks, although this isn’t the first time he’s seen pucks shot into the crowd in Salluit.
Salluit’s recreational coordinator declined to comment on the incident. But Salluit mayor Paulusie Saviadjuk said netting is part of a $5 million renovation the Northern Village hopes to do at the arena once it can secure the funding.
The coroner’s office in Montreal is doing an autopsy to determine the cause of the girl’s death.
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