Another American professional sporting event has been marred by boorish fan behavior. And this time the victim is a teenage girl who has already been through a great deal of anguish.
Maggie Herger, 16, wore her Vancouver Canucks shirt to Wednesday's game in San Jose against the Sharks, four years after being treated for a brain tumor. The San Jose Mercury News reports the native of Canada was heckled throughout the game by Bay Area fans before she was finally hit in the head by an older woman.
It's unknown whether the contact was intended, but Herger told the Mercury News things got even worse: As she was being loaded by paramedics into an ambulance, another Sharks fan spotted her Canucks jersey and shouted at her to "Suck it up."
"I just wanted to cry," Maggie told the paper after being released from the hospital. "Who does that?"
Police are investigating the teen's claims. On Thursday, the Sharks released a statement:
"Arena staff, along with San Jose police, interviewed the person who made contact with the injured fan, who stated that the contact was accidental during the celebration of a Sharks goal. Upon being interviewed, others seated in the area of the incident did not report seeing the contact between the parties involved."
Herger's loyalty to the Canucks stems in part from the team's efforts to help her recover from treatment of a benign brain tumor when she was 12. Some of the Canucks players visited Herger in the hospital to help her feel better. The high school junior and her sister, Maya, 18, attended Wednesday's game with tickets that her sister received as a Christmas gift.
The teenage sisters say although they wore gear from the visiting Canucks, they kept to themselves as they pulled for Vancouver. That wasn't enough to stop an drunk woman wearing a Sharks jersey from continually bumping into the girls and yelling at them.
As San Jose fans cheered after a second period goal, the woman seated behind the sisters jumped up and brought both her hands down on the back of Maggie's head, leaving her dazed and in some pain.
Maggie felt slightly better after a paramedic showed her photos of his buddy, Bryan Stow, the Bay Area paramedic who was almost beaten to death outside Dodger Stadium on opening day. Stow suffered catastrophic brain injuries, but has made magnificent progress in his recovery.
"I was just really disappointed. I didn't think that hockey fans were as bad as the baseball fans," Herger informed the Mercury News, "I didn't think that anyone would physically hurt me."
Herger complained on her Twitter page of not being able to sleep:
"Ouchie :( can't sleep, the whole back of my head feels like a huge bruise #notfun"
On Thursday, the 16-year-old's neck and head were still hurting. She was stuck in bed, woozy and on pain medication, according to the Mercury News.
Her Canucks won the game, 3-2, in overtime.
The good news? The injured girl's family says her benign brain tumor -- still present though smaller after surgery -- was not affected by the hit to the head, and there was no detectable internal bleeding from the minor concussion.
Maggie was asked if she'd ever attend an NHL game again. "I would be terrified and would want to go with my dad or security guards," Maggie told the Mercury News. "But I would love to go back."
The girl's mother, Jaynie Herger, blames alcohol sales for the incident, but isn't blaming Sharks fans as a group. Some people around the girls tried to help and apologized for the rowdy fan.
As of late Thursday, no arrests had been made.
Highlights of the Sharks-Canucks game where the teenager was punched