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Boy, 12, Dies After Blow From Hockey Puck
By Douglas E. Abrams

Springfield, Mass. - A 12-year-old boy died after being struck in the back of the head with a puck during hockey practice, an accident that left classmates grieving. Quinn Connally, a seventh-grade student in Adams, died about 18 hours later at Baystate Medical Center. An autopsy was scheduled, said a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner's office.The boy was practicing Monday night with the Mass-Conn Braves Youth Hockey Association at Springfield Civic Center. Paul Chojnowski, the boy's uncle, said the puck struck the boy just below the helmet in a half-inch gap between the helmet and shoulder pads. Quinn, who would have been 13 next week, attended St. Stanislaus Kostka School and was considered a conscientious student and outstanding athlete.

"We all prayed yesterday afternoon," said Sister Jacqueline Kazanowski, the principal. "I think young people have difficulty really believing that injuries can be so final. But, at the same time, you have to assure them that something like this is a very rare event. You don't want children to be afraid and quit sports." Quinn was playing on a travel team, which is made up of different age groups and is not affiliated with a school. League president James Callahan did not return several phone messages.

"Overall hockey is a very safe sport," said Chuck Menke, a spokesman for USA Hockey, the governing body for the amateur sport.He could not comment on the specifics surrounding the boy's death.Two high school hockey players have died during the past 18 years, said Fred Mueller of the National Center of Catastrophic Sport Injury at the University of North Carolina. However, Mueller said he had never before heard of a death involving a player struck in the back of the neck with a puck at any level of the game. Youngsters in the boy's age group are required to wear a helmet with a full face mask and mouthpiece in addition to uniform pads, Menke said.