It was a scary moment in Woodstock, just south of Brantford, last Tuesday when linesman Kevin Brown had his throat cut open while breaking up a fight in a Junior C game between the Woodstock Renegades and New Hamburg Firebirds.
Performing his duty of ensuring the fight ends when a player hits the ground, Brown took the usual position of a linesman during a fight. As the players fell to the ice, one of the player’s skates flew up and sliced his carotid artery.
While the event was a terrifying moment, it has raised yet another issue of safety in hockey, the third in the past year to occur in Ontario following the death of a player whose head hit the ice following a fight last year in Brantford, and a Kitchener Ranger player who suffered serious injuries after a hit to the head.
This time around, the issue is that of neck guards. While pros are still not mandated to wear neck guards, it is required in the junior and minor ranks. Unfortunately, the same requirements do not exist for officials.
“Safety is paramount. If you look at one thing to make the game safer for our officials, then that’s what we have to do,” said Ontario Hockey Association president Brent Ladds in a press conference. “In 35 years with this association, I have never seen something like this happen, or heard something like this happen.”
The Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) meets early this month, and has made it clear that official safety will be one of the key topics on the agenda.
“We’ve never really thought about [neck guards] with officials, because it’s never happened before,” Ladds said.
Neck guards became mandatory for all junior players following an incident in February 2008, when Florida Panthers’ forward Richard Zednik had his throat cut by teammate Olli Jokinen.
As of Saturday, Brown is still in a London hospital in critical condition. It has minor hockey organizations across the province asking parents to check the neck guards of players to ensure they fit properly.