OHA Niagara District Junior C Hockey Club




Thursday, December 31st, 2009

OHA vows to review on-ice safety

The Ontario Hockey Association vowed to review safety measures for on-ice officials the day after one of its linesmen was seriously injured while breaking up a fight.

Kevin Brown, 25, was listed in critical but stable condition Wednesday at London Health Sciences Centre, less than 24 hours after his neck was sliced open by an errant skate in a game between Woodstock and New Hamburg.

"I think there's no question when we meet (Jan. 6) protection of referees will be a subject at the board meeting," Junior C chairman John Kastner said. "I think part of our job as board of directors is we're charged with the responsibility of team officials, fans and game officials."

Players and on-ice officials aren't mandated by the OHA to wear neckguards, but Tuesday's gory incident has renewed calls for that policy to be reviewed.

"You wonder about officials and should that be considered," Kastner said. "Is that reasonable for something that happens once every couple of generations? I know it will be discussed."

Brown was attempting to break up a fight Tuesday between Woodstock's Craig Thomson and New Hamburg's Reid Oliver.

The pair traded punches along the boards behind the Firebirds' net as Brown and linesman Bruce Byers stood nearby. Thomson threw Oliver to the ice, propelling Oliver's right leg through the air like a cartwheel and slicing Brown's throat beneath the chinstrap on the right side of his face.

Brown, initially oblivious to the injury, break up the fight as blood spurted from a severed carotid artery and pooled at his skates.

The Sebringville-area native was semi-conscious when he left the arena in an ambulance, and Firebirds' head trainer Greg Henning said on the team's website that Brown received four units of blood.

"It's so sad," Kastner said. "We want to protect our officials any way we can."

Kastner was the president of Rotary Hockey in Stratford 10 years ago when he met Brown, an aspiring referee at the time.

"He is a guy who took the craft of being a referee very seriously," Kastner said. "At an early age when kids are working on being a good player, he was working on being a good official. He was a serious referee."

Former OHA linesman Darrell Vitello came up through the ranks with Brown and worked with him in minor hockey and Senior 'A' WOAA games.

"He knows the rule book real well," Vitello said. "He's a good guy to work with. He's a confident ref who does know the game well and he's always been a good guy, jokes around, never really gets fired up even during games. He always kept his head during games and really was a good official and was good to work with."

As for the game, which was tied 4-4 and suspended with 11:22 remaining in the third period, according to the OHA rulebook it will resume prior to the teams' next scheduled meeting Jan. 9 in Woodstock


(Source Sentinel-Review)