Monday, January 04th, 2010
Player shaken by incident
While Kevin Brown remains in a London hospital fighting for his life, the Woodstock Renegades player involved in the linesman's injury isn't sure when he will fight again.
It was Craig Thomson who flipped New Hamburg's Reid Oliver to the ice during a third-period fight last Tuesday at Southwood Arena. Oliver went down awkwardly and his skate cartwheeled into the air, slicing Brown's carotid artery and sending the 25-year-old to London Health Sciences Centre where he remains in critical condition.
Days later, Thomson, 19, is still shaken by the incident and the fight that led to the tragic injury.
"I do feel guilty because if we wouldn't have fought it wouldn't have happened,"Thomson said. " There's nothing you can do.
"I'm going to try to get by it but it's obviously always going to be there."
Thomson scored twice against the Firebirds last week. His second goal with 11:22 remaining in the third period tied the game 4-4.
A shove from Oliver quickly escalated to a fight that began in the corner to the right of the New Hamburg net. It moved along the boards behind the net, where Brown and fellow linesman Bruce Byers were ready to grab both players.
The fight - mostly a wrestling match with some punches thrown in -was no different from many of the fights in Thomson's junior career.
But when Oliver was thrown to the ice, his right skate ultimately piercing through the flesh and slicing an artery in Brown's neck, everything changed.
"The other ref told us we were done," Thomson said. "We both got up and I looked around and I saw blood everywhere. The other guy said the ref got cut by a skate and went to the bench.
I didn't see it or feel it or anything."
Brown broke up the fight before realizing the blood on the ice was spurting from his own wound. Afterwards Thomson's equipment lay soaked in a crimson pool of water in the Renegades laundry tub.
"There was blood from my left shoulder to my skate blade," Thomson said. "There was blood everywhere. I went blank. I didn't know what to think."
Both teams were sent to their dressing rooms and the game was eventually suspended.
If only Thomson's guilty conscience was as fortunate.
"It all happened so fast," he said. "I was just hoping he was alright and they could get him to the hospital on time and that he doesn't pass away on us."
Since the injury, there has been an outpouring of support for Brown that extends beyond the hockey community. On Facebook, there is a group with almost 400 members in support of Brown and his hopeful recovery.
"My son has a keen interest in being a ref for hockey and that's basically why I've been following the story and started the group," Gail Bradfield-Evraire said. "It was
just such a terrible freak accident and it affected a lot of people who witnessed it or read about it."
In the wake of Brown's injury, the OHA has vowed to review its safety policies regarding on-ice officials.
It has also re-opened the long debate over fighting's place in hockey.
Thomson has heard the discussion, but he has more important issues at hand, like getting the chance to personally apologize to Brown.
"Right now all I can think about is him getting better," Thomson said. "I probably won't fight again for a while because that's probably going to be in the back of my mind.
"Everybody was in the wrong spot at the wrong time."