On Saturday a hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio went down in history as the first NHL game in which a fan was struck by a wild puck and died from the resulting injuries. Warnings and disclaimers on the backs of tickets and over the PA systems during games of possible injury are not enough. The NHL and arena owners owe it to fans to take further measures in protecting them from harm.
The puck that hit 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil Saturday night struck her above the left eye, causing a skull fracture and bruising of the brain. When Brittanie’s head snapped back on impact, it caused damage to a major artery, causing blood clots and swelling of the brain. She died Monday after lapsing into a coma.
Hockey pucks have been known to fly at speeds of more than 100 mph. Knowing this, one might assume that officials would require a certain degree of protection for the fans, but this is not the case. There are no requirements for the height of the glass surrounding hockey rinks. The NHL recommends a height of 42 inches, making the glass and wall together 9 1/2 feet. However, pucks can still make it over this barrier with ease.
Warnings are printed on the back of each ticket, disclaimers announced over the PA systems at every game at least once every period, but in the excitement and noise of the arena, these often go unheard.
While it is understandable that this was simply a tragic accident, it is completely unacceptable for current safety standards to remain unchanged. Netting over the rink to catch wild pucks and taller glass heights should be required. Any rink that fails to meet these safety standards should be penalized.
Fans deserve safety while enjoying a game. The NHL and arena owners are responsible for providing as safe an environment as possible.