Teen Killed By Puck Remembered For Her Energy, Enthusiasm

By JAMES HANNAH, Associated Press Writer

WEST ALEXANDRIA, Ohio (AP) - Brittanie Cecil was a cheerleader, soccer player, honor-roll student and one heck of a shopper.

"She was just good at picking out clothes," Tara Milliken said, her head down and her voice slow and halting.

Milliken and six other girls practiced with the Twin Valley South middle school soccer team, the rain pouring down, on Wednesday. Afterward, they talked about their 13-year-old friend, who died Monday after being struck by a hockey puck at the Calgary Flames-Columbus Blue Jackets NHL game last weekend.

"She was always happy," Kari Summers said. "She was always excited. She loved to cheer. I spent the night with her one night. She was just so much fun."

They stayed up all night: watching movies, doing cheers and doing each other's makeup.

Brittanie was remembered on Tuesday by her friends -- and also by those who never met her.

"Our fans are our family, and this tragic accident fills us all with a deep sense of sorrow," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We extend heartfelt condolences to the grieving family and friends on this day of profound sadness."

Brittanie, who would have turned 14 on Wednesday, is the first spectator ever killed by an errant puck at an NHL game. Her father took her to the game for an early birthday present.

The Columbus Blue Jackets called off their practice on Wednesday.

Team spokesman Todd Sharrock said the players were "very upset" by the death.

"Most of them have children of their own," he said.

Blue Jackets president and general manager Doug MacLean, tears in his eyes and his voice cracking, said at a news conference, "As a father of a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old, I can't imagine the grief the family is experiencing."

In this community of 1,500 people not far from Dayton, the word traveled fast.

"Everyone who has walked in here has mentioned it," said Stacy Habekost, manager of a beauty shop. "But nobody wants to talk about it."

Last fall, Brittanie had broken her arm in the next to last soccer game of the season. Coach Bill Deleranko said the team decided to dedicate their final game to her.

Brittanie showed up at the game, arm in a cast, and cheered for her team -- which ended up beating the first-place undefeated team.

"We've decided just to dedicate the season to her -- that way we can take her with us," a somber Deleranko said. "She may have been taken from us, but they can't take away the memories."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)