Citizens of Dunkirk, France lay flowers outside the arena where Hugo Vermeersch, 8, was killed in the stands by a puck on Saturday. (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
An eight-year-old boy was tragically killed by a puck flying into the stands at a French League game on Saturday. His loss has moved his family, city and team.
It was a horrible Saturday for the French League and the commune of Dunkirk. Late in the third period of a tier-2 game between Durnkirk and Reims, a puck flew out of play and into the stands. It struck eight-year-old fan Hugo Vermeersch on the ear. He went into cardiac arrest. Reims' team president, Dr. Benoit Vrielynck, is also a surgeon and performed CPR on Vermeersch before firefighters arrived and took him to a nearby hospital. Tragically, Vermeersch couldn't be saved. He passed away Sunday morning. The death obviously has left Hugo's family devastated, and it hit Hugo's local team, Dunkirk, hard as well, as the team and its players were familiar with him. "C'est avec grand tristesse que nous vous annoncons le deces du petit Hugo ce matain... RIP petite ange," the Dunkirke Corsaires team account tweeted Sunday morning. The message translates to "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of little Hugo this morning. R.I.P. little angel."
Dunkirk goaltender Niels-Erik Ravn also tweeted out his support for Hugo:
The incident is eerily reminiscent of the one involving then Columbus Blue Jackets forward Espen Knutsen, whose shot deflected into a crowd, striking and killing 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil in 2002. It led the NHL to install protective nylon mesh netting above the glass behind both teams' nets. The natural question to ask in Hugo's heartbreaking story is whether the venue in which he died, the Patinoire Michel Raffoux Arena, had any protective barriers. An investigation has been launched and the
investigating magistrate said there were plexiglass protective screens behind each goal, but not on the sides of the rink. Vermeersch was reportedly sitting in an unprotected area. Here's a shot taken from the rink's exposed boards during the game.
The remaining three minutes of Saturday's game were not played and will be made up at a later date. THN extends its heartfelt condolences to the Vermeersch family.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin