HALIFAX — The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has unveiled extensive changes to player safety protocols, and issued an apology for releasing information "lacking in accuracy," four years after the sudden on-ice death of a 16-year-old prospect from Nova Scotia.
League commissioner Gilles Courteau apologized Tuesday to the family of Jordan Boyd, who was taking part in a drill during August 2013 tryouts with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in New Brunswick when he collapsed and couldn't be revived through the use of CPR.
An autopsy later revealed that Boyd had an undiagnosed heart condition known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
Courteau, who also announced enhanced staff training and medical examinations during a news conference in Halifax, didn't specify what information was inaccurate.
"After reviewing the process that has been in place the Boyd family deserves an apology from me as the league commissioner," said Courteau.
A news release from the league office later said that at the time of Boyd's death it had stated that the league had a written policy on how to deal with player emergencies and it was satisfied that the policy was followed "to the letter."
"As a result of this review and information that was discovered, it became clear to the league that critical first aid readiness needed to be improved upon. For example, an AED (automatic external defibrillator) that is easily accessible and fully functional should be available at all times, which might not have been the case for Jordan."
Jordan's father, Stephen Boyd, said the family was satisfied that it has had a "constructive dialogue" with the league in the past couple of years.
"We are very satisfied with the changes that they have announced today and really for us that's the absolute most important thing, that changes to the safety protocol have been put in place which we know are going to benefit players," he said.
Courteau said safety steps for all teams now include:
- ensuring that at least three team staff are trained in life-saving techniques including the use of defibrillators, which must be present at all team events including games and practices.
- two trained staff must be at all team events, games, practices and tryouts.
- teams must have a defibrillator at all team events that is in the possession of the trainer athletic therapist, who must ensure it is in good working condition.
- Players would be required to fill out more in-depth health questionnaires prior to training camp, and would be subject to more extensive physical examinations.
Previously teams were required to have defibrillators, although Courteau couldn't confirm whether a defibrillator that was at the rink the day of Jordan's death belonged to the team or the arena.
Courteau said the league had no current plans to introduce mandatory screening through the use of echocardiograms or the more basic electrocardiogram.
He said he believes the new medical examination guidelines and player questionnaire are key steps.
"The first thing that's going to be very important for the athlete is to answer correctly the questionnaire," Courteau said. "From the questionnaire the team doctors will be able to determine if a player needs something further in regards to the medical exam."
Stephen Boyd said he's pleased with the league's commitment to improve its safety protocol.
He said the family has been devastated by the loss of a "wonderful young man" they are incredibly proud of.
"We hope that by telling Jordan's story and continuing to advocate for CPR-AED awareness and training as well as research into inherited heart disease, that other lives can be saved — that some good for others can come from this."
Courteau also announced the league would contribute $50,000 to the Jordan Boyd Foundation.
The foundation awards post-secondary scholarships to amateur hockey players and raises awareness of inherited heart diseases in young people and particularly athletes.
A celebrity hockey tournament is also held in Jordan's name each year and to date it has raised $560,000 for inherited heart disease research.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Gilles Courteau's surname.