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Hockey official calls death of 16-year-old player hit by puck a freak accident

The family of a young Edmonton hockey player who died after being hit in the neck with a puck has donated the youth’s organs for transplant.

Kyle Fundytus, 16, was remembered Monday by family, team and classmates as a friendly go-getter on and off the ice who never flinched from using his body to block shots for his Midget AA team.

Hockey Edmonton officials say he was blocking a shot during a game Saturday night when he was struck, dying later in hospital of his injuries in what was being called a freak accident.

“Kyle’s zest for life and his passion for hockey will be a memory the family will carry for the rest of (our) lives,” says a brief statement issued by the Fundytus family.

The youth’s father, Laurie Fundytus, who helped manage the team, thanked the minor hockey community, relatives and friends for their overwhelming support.

Grief counsellors were helping members of both teams process what happened on the ice.

Staff at Holy Trinity High School where Kyle attended class were helping students and teachers deal with the boy’s death. Young people wrote messages of condolences on a tribute wall at the school and others used social media to express their loss.

“I’ve never heard our school so quiet in my life. Today is going to be a very hard day. You’re missed here, Kyle,” wrote one student.

“He gave his life for the game he loved,” said one message. “May he rest in peace and be looked up to as he is a true inspiration.”

Nathan Papirny, the youth’s coach, choked back tears as he spoke of how Kyle was so well respected by his peers that he was recently elected an assistant captain even though he was one of the youngest members of the team.

Papirny said blocking shots is part of hockey and no amount of equipment can protect a player on the ice completely.

He said the youth loved to throw himself into the play.

“It is just like making a pass in a hockey game. We play at a pretty competitive level. Kyle was just doing what he does every other time he was on the ice. He was just putting it out for our guys,” he said.

“These kids are covered in gear, and high-end gear. You have vulnerable spots on your body in any kind of gear and it hit that vulnerable spot.”

On Kyle’s own Facebook page, he wrote about his passion for the game.

“I love the smell of a hockey rink,” he said.

Hockey Canada and Hockey Alberta plan to review what happened on the ice after the funeral, the details of which have not been announced.

Rob Virgil, president of Hockey Alberta, said for now, everyone wants to focus on helping the youth’s family and friends.

He said the organizations may eventually look at the practice of players blocking shots with their bodies.

Virgil noted that shot blocking is common in the National Hockey League and has become part of the game in lower tiers of hockey across Canada.

“With the advent of better equipment, certainly with the NHL, the pros doing it, it becomes part of coaching strategies, team play strategies, it has become part of the game,” he said.

“There may be something implemented, whether it be equipment or education.”

For now, members of the South Side Athletic Club Don Wheaton team are taking a break from the playing schedule to grieve and to heal.

Coach Papirny said he hasn’t figured out yet what to tell his players about shot blocking when they return to the ice, other than it is absolutely part of the game.

He said parents, players and coaches will be watching intently the next time a team member throws himself in front of a shot.

“Until that first kid blocks a shot there is going to be that ‘gasp’, and we will just have to deal with it as it comes, and battle through it.”