AYR — The Ayr Centennials are mourning the loss of captain Eli Palfreyman who died Tuesday night.
The 20-year-old Cambridge native was playing in a game at the North Dumfries Community Complex, according to the Twitter feed of the Township of North Dumfries.
The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League club confirmed the tragic news in a team statement late Wednesday morning, but could not say when exactly Palfreyman passed away.
“The Ayr Centennials are devastated to announce that our captain Eli Palfreyman passed away last night,” it read. “We are asking for your prayers and support for Eli’s family and each of our players. Our Centennial’s organization and the community of Ayr are in mourning.”
The statement also said the team has “reached out to mental health and grief professionals to support our players and staff.”
It went on to say that Palfreyman “had the best of care from our medical staff and quick response from the ambulatory staff. Medical doctors will have more answers for us in the coming days.”
The team isn’t commenting or releasing any other information at this time, “out of respect for the family’s right for privacy” adding that “Cen’s nation also needs time to heal during this devastating time.”
Palfreyman was in his second year with the Centennials after playing for the GOJHL’s Kitchener Dutchmen and Pelham Panthers. He played his minor hockey with the Cambridge Hawks and Kitchener Jr. Rangers. He also attended Kitchener private hockey school Victus Academy.
Palfreyman was also a 12th round pick by the Peterborough Petes in the 2018 Ontario Hockey League draft.
“I’m in shock,” said Cambridge native and Guelph Storm bench boss Scott Walker, who coached Palfreyman with the Hawks in minor hockey for five years.
“He was one of those guys where it was team first all the time. He was all about the team. He was a glue guy. He willed himself to be the player that he was. I can’t say enough about him. He was just one of those guys you had to have on your team.”
The Centennials were hosting and taking part in the inaugural Ayr Mutual Global Invitational, a five-day international tournament that also included Germany’s Jungadler Mannheim, the Carlton Place Jr. Canadians, Boston Jr. Bruins, Kitchener-Waterloo Siskins and St Andrew’s College.
Ayr was scheduled to play Boston Tuesday night. The remainder of the tournament was obviously cancelled.
“He loved everybody on his team,” said Walker. “Minor hockey can have cliques. He liked everybody in every clique. He got along with everybody and was always the life of the team.
“It has been really, really tough today.”
Palfreyman was teammates and close friends with several current OHL players while coming up with the Hawks including Kitchener Rangers forward Joseph Serpa, Sault Ste. Marie winger Keegan McMullen and Guelph Storm forwards Ben McFarlane and Cooper Walker.
Later Wednesday, the Centennials posted a photo of Palfreyman’s No. 17 sweater with a “RIP17” hashtag on Twitter. Just last week, the team had named the centre captain for the upcoming season.
Several OHL clubs also took to Twitter to express their condolences.
More to come.
Josh Brown is a Waterloo Region-based reporter focusing on sports for The Record. Reach him via email: email@example.com