Rising Canadian junior hockey player Eli Palfreyman reportedly died in the locker room during a preseason game in Ontario on Tuesday night.
The 20-year-old Cambridge, Ont. native collapsed during the first intermission of the Ayr Centennials’ preseason tournament game at the North Dumfries Community Complex, according to the Toronto Sun. Emergency officials were unable to revive the star forward.
Medical officials have not disclosed Palfreyman’s cause of death and the Centennial’s organization said it will not speculate “out of respect for the family’s right to privacy.”
“We are asking for your prayers and support for Eli’s family and each of our players,” Centennials’ Vice President Brian Shantz said in a statement. “Our Centennials organization and the community of Ayr are in mourning. Eli had the best care from our medical staff and quick response from the ambulatory staff.”
The Ayr Centennials, one of 25 teams in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, named Palfreyman its captain for its upcoming season days before the tragedy. He was entering his second season with the organization.
“It’s an honor to wear the C,” Palfreyman said after being named captain on Friday. “Me coming back this year — my final year — as the captain, words don’t explain how honored I am to be in this position.”
Palfreyman was a 12th-round draft pick of the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League Draft in 2018.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to Eli’s family and all of his teammates and staff with Ayr,” Peterborough Petes general manager Michael Oke said in a statement.
The GOJHL postponed its games originally scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday following Palfreyman’s death.
North Dumfries Township Mayor Sue Foxton ordered flags at the arena to be flown at half-mast while teams across the junior hockey landscape paid tribute to the young player.
“Gone from our sight but never our hearts,” said the Atlanta Madhatters, Palfreyman’s former team. “With tears and profound sadness, we offer our deepest condolences to his family and those that were blessed to be his teammates.”