She died of a heart arrhythmia at 19, but now her hometown hosts a hockey tournament in her honour

For the last four years, the Alexa Corneil Memorial Ladies Hockey Tournament, or AC15, has taken place in New Liskeard, Ont., to honour a young hockey player who died of a heart arrhythmia at the age of 19.

Alexa Corneil Memorial Ladies Hockey Tournament is now in its fourth year

A young hockey player on the ice, wearing a black helmet and blue, white and red mouth guard.
Alexa Corneil died in 2017 of a heart arrhythmia. She was an avid hockey player, and for the last four years there's been a tournament in her honour in New Liskeard. (Submitted by Glenn Corneil)

Alexa Corneil was a promising young hockey player, but her life was cut short when she died in her sleep of a heart arrhythmia in 2017. She was 19 years old.

For the last four years, her family has hosted the Alexa Corneil Memorial Ladies Hockey Tournament, or AC15, in New Liskeard, Ont., in her honour.

After her death, her family learned she had a heart condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC).

"Which is one of the few conditions that we know of where exercise actually makes it worse," said her father Glenn Corneil, who is also the acting medical officer of health for the Timiskaming Health Unit.

"So all the training and exercise and sports that she played was slowly damaging her heart."

Corneil said that when he was in medical school ARVC wasn't even known yet.

"It's the newest of the cardiomyopathies and it generally affects the right side of the heart," he said.

Alexa had no symptoms until she died in her sleep, and an autopsy revealed she had the condition.

Corneil later learned that his wife has the genetic mutation for ARVC that was passed on to Alexa and one of their other children.

They now both have defibrillators built into their hearts and Alexa's death inspired Corneil to go into public health. 

People who attend the tournament the weekend of March 23, will be able to sign up for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, and learn how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

"If somebody's collapsed, if their heart is stopped, you can't do harm with CPR," Corneil said.

"You need to be brave and get on the chest, start doing chest compressions."

Each year the tournament also has a fundraiser for a cause that would have been important for Alexa. This year it's to renovate the outdoor rink in Shaver Park, in North Cobalt, so it can be used in the summer to teach kids how to ride bicycles.

"It's an emotional weekend for us, but certainly filled with a lot of really positive emotions," Corneil said.  

"And we're so appreciative of the support that we get from the community."

With files from Markus Schwabe