Kyle Fundytus, 16, was hit while blocking a shot during a youth league game in Edmonton, Alberta, Saturday afternoon and died at a hospital Sunday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
"He was just a great friend to everyone," Greer Clooney told the CBC outside Edmonton's Holy Trinity Catholic High School Monday.
"It's difficult 'cause he's not going to be here ... . Just living for him, remembering him, instead of being so sad all the time. It's going to take a while."
Memory walls set up at the school in Fundytus' honor were covered by messages from students.
"RIP Kyle. Life cut way too short," one note said. "You'll always be looking down."
"I'm crying bro. I want you back here," another note said. "I can't even think about my bro not being here."
Holy Trinity principal Catherine Nissen said in a statement the community would "look to our collective faith to find understanding and strength" as it mourns the loss of Fundytus.
"The unexpected and tragic circumstances of his death have us all remembering how precious life is," she said.
Betty Schmilar, president of Hockey Edmonton, told the CBC Fundytus was wearing the proper equipment and his death was a "freak accident."
"He just took a puck in the neck the wrong way," she said.
Fatalities in the youth leagues are rare. Most concern centers on injuries and the long-term effects of concussions.
Players wear neck guards to protect against being hit by a stick, but they are not designed to protect against a fast-moving puck, a former league president said, calling Fundytus' death a "terrible, tragic accident."