Linesman seriously injured in Canada

WOODSTOCK, Ontario -- A 25-year-old hockey linesman was gravely injured when his neck was cut by a skate during a Junior C game on Tuesday.

The incident took place in the third period of a game between the New Hamburg Firebirds and the host Woodstock Renegades. The linesman, Kevin Brown, was initially reported to be in stable condition, but Renegades owner Bill McLeod said he was told Brown is "not doing so well now."

Later Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the London Health Sciences Centre said Brown was in critical condition. The Firebirds' head trainer, Greg Henning, said in a statement on the team's Web site that Brown was in stable but critical condition.

Brown was slashed while trying to break up a fight between two players late in the game.

According to the North Bay (Ont.) Nugget newspaper, Woodstock's Craig Thomson, who had just scored to tie the game 4-4, got into a fight with New Hamburg's Reid Oliver behind the Firebirds' net after the goal and subsequent celebration.

The two traded punches until Thomson threw Oliver to the ice. Oliver's right leg was lifted through the air -- "almost like a cartwheel motion," McLeod said -- and his skate cut Brown's throat under his chin on the right side of his face.

According to the report, Brown, not realizing he had been gravely injured, continued to break up the fight as he bled profusely.

"I saw the skate go up and he grabbed his neck right away," linesman Bruce Byers said afterward, according to the report. "You knew he was leaking. I told the guys on the ice, 'It's done.' "

Witnesses say Brown's neck was gushing blood as he skated off the ice, and he collapsed before he could reach the benches. Trainers from both teams and an off-duty nurse, who had been in the crowd, worked to stabilize Brown and control the bleeding.

Team trainers said he drifted in and out of consciousness as he was loaded into an ambulance. Brown was initially taken to a hospital in Woodstock, where he had immediate surgery, then was transferred to the London hospital.

Henning said on the Firebirds' Web site that Brown's carotid artery had been severed, and Brown received four units of blood.

He also said that Brown, when a nurse asked him to respond, was able to give a thumbs-up.

The game, with 11:22 to play, was immediately stopped.

On the Renegades' Web site, the team posted a message: "The thoughts and prayers of all Renegades players, management, staff and fans are extended to the linesman who was severely injured in Tuesday's game and his family."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.