The second legacy of the Columbus Blue Jackets, sadly, is the 2002 death of Brittanie Cecil and the resulting mandate from the NHL to place nets behind the goals at both ends of every NHL arena. (This also was my first exposure to the CBJ, for what it's worth. I saw the Sports Illustrated that discussed the incident.) If memory serves correct, the decision to place nets behind the goals was not unanimously hailed throughout the league, but John McConnell didn't care and put them up anyway in Columbus. The league then followed suit.
Columbus fans know that the precipitating incident was caused by an Espen Knutsen shot that caromed up into the stands after a deflection from a Calgary Flames defender. Cecil apparently was OK until later after the game, upon which she was taken to a local hospital and passed away. As I understand it, Knutsen was devastated and never was really the same as a player. Brittanie's family...well, anything I could say should go without saying.
The Dispatch ran a followup story just this past March after talking to both Cecil's family members and Knutsen. The two "sides" (Are there really sides in this tragedy? Is this a dispute? Regardless, the jargon works for this purpose.) apparently had not communicated in the eight years since Brittanie's death.
With Knutsen coming back from Norway to take part in the CBJ's 10th Anniversary celebration through tonight's CBJ Alumni Night, it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that Cecil's family and Knutsen finally met, talked and found some measure of closure. And if there was any question about the healing that happened yesterday, the Dispatch reported this statement from the gathering:
"I don't hold you responsible; I never did," [Brittanie's mother, Jody] Naudascher told Knutsen at Nationwide Arena during a private, one-hour meeting. "It was an accident, and you should never have blamed yourself for anything. I wanted to tell you all this back then."Peace. At last.