Arena funeral for Ontario junior hockey captain Eli Palfreyman draws hundreds

Arena funeral for Ontario junior hockey captain Eli Palfreyman draws hundreds

Over 300 people gathered Tuesday at the North Dumfries Community Centre in Ayr, Ont., to pay respects to Eli Palfreyman, the junior hockey captain who died unexpectedly a week ago after collapsing at a pre-season tournament.

The arena service for the 20-year-old, who played with the Ayr Centennials of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, began with a prayer, and was followed with discussions of grief and Palfreyman’s love for the sport.

Attendees were mostly dressed in black.


“People looked up to him. People asked for direction from him. People followed him,” said a teary-eyed Brett Palfreyman, Eli’s dad. 

“Eli was everyone’s best friend. He looked out for us and still does. He was just so infectious…. We miss him already.”

Tim Barrie, the Centennials’ director of hockey operations, also spoke.

“Eli made us better,” he said. “He led by example and made us laugh. Simply put, Eli was and will forever be our captain.

“Thanks for raising a son anyone would be proud to call their own,” Barrie said, addressing Palfreyman’s parents.

A large group of people dressed in black stand outside the North Dumfries Community Centre in Ayr to pay their respects to Eli Palfreyman.
Over 300 people attended the funeral service for Palfreyman at the North Dumfries Community Centre. (James Charaani/CBC)

No cameras or recording devices were allowed at the funeral service. Visitation for family and friends was scheduled to continue until 1:30 p.m. ET.

Palfreyman, of Cambridge, Ont., had been named captain of the Centennials just days before his death.

  • WATCH | The vice-president of the Ayr Centennials fondly remembers captain Eli Palfreyman:


‘Lovable, loved everybody,’ Eli Palfreyman fondly remembered by Ayr Centennials VP

The vice president of the Ayr Centennials, Brian Shantz, spoke with CBC’s Kate Bueckert, fondly remembering Eli Palfreyman, who died during a pre-season tournament in North Dumfries Township.

He was taken to hospital after collapsing in the change room at the Dumfries complex during the second intermission of the tournament game against the Boston Jr. Bruins.

In the days following, tributes poured in for the young star, including from those who played with and against him, the NHL, OHL and others.


The cause of Palfreyman’s death has not yet been released.

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