Mourners Crowd Funeral Home To Remember Teen Hit By Puck

By JAMES HANNAH, Associated Press Writer

WEST ALEXANDRIA, Ohio (AP) - Mourners wore buttons with a photograph of Brittanie Cecil at Friday's funeral for the 13-year-old honor student hit by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game.

Friends and family crowded a stone and wooden frame funeral home outside this town of 1,500 people. Some children arrived wearing red and white jackets of Twin Valley South middle school, where Brittanie (pictured, right) was an eighth-grader, cheerleader, soccer player and student council member.

She had "a short but long life," said Chic McKinney, an uncle and one of the speakers at the hourlong service.

Brittanie died Monday, two days after a deflected shot by Blue Jackets center Espen Knutsen struck her in a game against Calgary in Columbus.

She became the first fan ever killed at a National Hockey League game.

Her father had bought the tickets as an early birthday present.

Brittanie would have turned 14 on Wednesday.

At Barnes Funeral Home, a large photo of Brittanie sat above a silver casket covered with red and white carnations.

A tape was played of the middle school's fight song, and mourners sang "Amazing Grace" and "Lean on Me."

Doug MacLean, general manager of the Blue Jackets, attended to represent the team and the NHL. He was accompanied by his wife, Jill.

The Blue Jackets lost to the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in overtime on Thursday night, their first game at Nationwide Arena since Brittanie's death.

On the backs of their helmets, players from both teams wore heart-shaped stickers bearing Brittanie's initials. Flags outside the arena were at half-staff.

Before the puck dropped, there was a moment of silence. The only sound was that of strobe lights that flashed every few seconds. After the game, Knutsen said one game won't erase the memory of her death.

"Of course, I'm the one that took the shot," he said softly. "I'm the one who has to live with that."

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