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Girl's death weighs heavy on Knutsen

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 24, 2002

Through no fault of his, Blue Jackets forward Espen Knutsen will forever be associated with one of the NHL's most tragic moments.

His shot during a March16 game against the Flames was deflected by Calgary's Derek Morris, flew into the stands at Nationwide Arena and hit 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil in the head. She died Monday night.

"I don't feel guilty, but it was me who took the shot," Knutsen said. "I don't know what I'm feeling right now. It's a thing I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. ... I'm so sorry."

"He was very upset," Blue Jackets coach Dave King said. "It was such a freak accident. There was nothing he could do about it. ... Certainly it's just a horrible thing and our thoughts are with the family and friends."

Cecil is believed to be the first fan killed by a puck at an NHL game.

"It was an awful thing," said Knutsen, 30, of Oslo, Norway. "I think about it all the time. I'm thinking about her family. I have a family myself. It was a horrible accident."

A REMEMBRANCE: Donations can be sent to the Brittanie Cecil Fund, c/o Bank One, 4056 E Main St., Hilliard, Ohio, 43026.

NET GAINS: Many believe injuries could be prevented by putting nets above the glass at rinks.

"Most of the rinks in Europe have them," Wild defenseman Filip Kuba said. "The nets they can make now are pretty clear. You don't even notice them."

"Particularly in warmups," Wild center Sergei Zholtok said. "There are pucks being shot and fans aren't paying attention. Sometimes when the puck is really moving, you just can't get out of the way."

GOOD RIDDANCE: It didn't take long for the Panthers to pile on Pavel Bure, who was traded to the Rangers at Tuesday's deadline.

"For me, I'm disappointed playing with Pavel this year," left wing Bill Lindsay said after finding out he was claimed off waivers by the Canadiens. "I expected more from him. He's a guy playing 30 minutes a night. If I'm going to bust my butt playing eight minutes ... I'm going to damn well try hard. And I've got to come and watch a guy that makes $30-million come to the rink last and leave first?"

And this:

"If I have to shake Pav's hand, you know what, I don't know if I could really do it and tell him thanks for everything," Lindsay said. "I felt in a way he hung me out to dry because he's better than that and he knows he's better than that."

"Everybody here knows what he brings to the team," goaltender Trevor Kidd said, "goals and that's it. ... You have a guy making that much money, there has to be other things involved than just putting the puck in the net."

Bure, 30, long known for his lack of defense and anything resembling physical play, said he was surprised at the venom.

"Everybody can have an opinion. I can't do anything about that," said Bure, who had 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games for the Panthers and was minus-14. "Would I say something bad about them? No, because it's no class at all. Especially when it comes to somebody like this.

"I've played with big stars like Mark Messier and we are still friends. I care about what he has to say because he's Mark Messier. Look at where this is coming from."

POTI'S PROBLEMS: Just getting out of Edmonton should help Tom Poti's game. Poti, traded to the Rangers for Mike York, was booed daily by Oilers fans, even for things that weren't his fault.

"I don't know if I'll ever forgive the fans for what they did," Poti said. "I spent four years here and it's sad to leave but it's a big weight off my shoulders the way the fans turned on me. ... I was proud of the way I handled it. I never quit or gave up."

ODDS AND ENDS: When the Thrashers traded Ray Ferraro, it was the third consecutive season they dumped their captain (Kelly Buchberger, Steve Staios). ... NHL.com received 1,045,956 hits Tuesday, up 140 percent from trading deadline day last year. ... Former Lightning goalie Kevin Weekes started his first game for the Hurricanes Thursday. He allowed goals on his first two shots but beat the Panthers 3-2. "Obviously, things didn't go as planned off the start," Weekes said. "We played so well defensively, I didn't see any shots, especially compared to what I'm accustomed to." ... Reports out of Chicago say Tony Amonte will not be offered a contract this summer and will be traded. ... Detroit center Steve Yzerman said if he had known how long he would be out with his bum knee, he would not have played in the Olympics. ... Senators assistant Roger Neilson, the Panthers' first coach, could be Mike Keenan's assistant in Florida next season.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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