"It's hard to believe that an 11-year-old child could provoke or do something to an individual ... to have him do this," said Ken McDonald, mayor of Conception Bay South. "It makes you wonder."
A 19-year-old man was charged Friday with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and attempted murder after the attack Thursday at around 7:50 p.m. at the Topsail Soccer Field and Clubhouse, west of St. John's.
Calvin Randell, the president of the Conception Bay South Soccer Association, said children were attending a skills camp at the time. They were quickly taken to safety inside a building as police and paramedics rushed to the scene, Randell said.
"This is a horrendous act," he said. "It's not something we expect to hear at our recreational facility, especially when you have kids between 11 and 15 years old."
Randell said he arrived at the soccer field minutes after the attack and several witnesses told him that a person with a knife ran towards a group of children who were practising passing drills.
He said a parent who is a volunteer coach quickly applied pressure to the boy's wound and comforted the child in an effort to prevent him from going into shock.
"I think he is a hero," he said. "He just immediately went into action to ensure the young person got the treatment he deserved."
The boy was taken to hospital where he has been in serious condition since Thursday night.
"It could have been much more tragic," McDonald said.
Premier Paul Davis, whose riding is near where the stabbing occurred, said he knew families at the field and rushed there once he heard what happened.
"These are not things that we should be seeing in Canada, certainly not anything we should see here in Newfoundland and Labrador," said Davis, who was sworn in as the province's 12 premier on Friday.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said they arrested a suspect that night not far from the soccer field and seized a vehicle. They did not say whether the suspect and the victim knew each other.
Randell said the association has made crisis intervention counsellors available for anyone who needs assistance over the next few days.
He said his greatest concern to assist the injured boy.
"This is something he'll have with him the rest of his life and it's incumbent on all of us to help that family and help that little guy deal with it," he said.
Nicholas Layman appeared Friday in provincial court in St. John's, where he was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment. He is scheduled to return to court next Friday.
(The Canadian Press, VOCM)
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the premier represents the riding where the attack occurred.