WOODSTOCK -- A renewed call to ban hockey fights went out yesterday after a linesman was left clinging to life in a London hospital, his throat slashed while breaking up a fight.
Kevin Brown, 25, was in critical but stable condition after a player's skate blade sliced his neck during a Junior C hockey game between the Woodstock Renegades and New Hamburg Firebirds.
"I think incidents like this allow us to reflect on why we allow fighting to remain in the game," Graham Pollett, London region's chief medical health officer, and an outspoken critic of on-ice violence, said last night. "It demonstrates that officials are also vulnerable to serious injury when fighting occurs."
Horrified fans gasped, amid screams for an ambulance, as trainers attended the bleeding linesman.
The incident occurred during the third period of Tuesday's game at Woodstock's Southwood Arena.
Woodstock police were called in the aftermath of the dramatics, but a spokesperson last night said no charges will be laid.
Witnesses say the linesman's neck was gushing blood as he skated off the ice, and he collapsed before reaching the bench.
"I saw the skate go up and (Brown) grabbed his neck right away," fellow linesman Bruce Byers said. "I told the guys on the ice, 'It's done.'"
Officials from the Ontario Hockey Association, which oversees junior hockey below the major-junior level, were not available for comment.
The Renegades' Craig Thomson had just scored to tie the game 4-4 and, during the celebration, got into a fight with New Hamburg's Reid Oliver behind the Firebirds net.
The two traded punches along the boards as Brown and Byers watched.
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, at first oblivious to the injury, tried to break up the fight as blood spurted from a severed artery.
When he realized the severity of what had happened, the Sebringville-area linesman immediately placed his left hand on the gaping wound and skated toward the Firebirds bench.
"You can't even describe it," Byers said of the injury.
Renegades owner Bill McLeod said yesterday he'd been told Brown is "not doing so well now."
First taken to Woodstock General Hospital, Brown was transferred to the London Health Sciences Centre where he remained in critical condition last night.
The game was suspended with 11:22 remaining.
Team trainers said Brown drifted in and out of consciousness as he was loaded into an ambulance. Players from both teams were shaken.
"Me and Philly (Dan Phillips) were at the bench and we thought he was bringing equipment to the bench," Renegades captain Cole Maher said. "We realized he was skating too fast to do that.
"I went to our bench and grabbed a towel and brought it down there."
Earlier this year, the Middlesex-London Health Unit issued a report calling for an end to fighting in hockey -- a plea others have also made in the wake of controversial fights and attacks in the NHL and lower-level leagues.
At the time, Pollett said the court system has to quit looking the other way when fights erupt on ice. Tuesday's incident only underlines the need to scrub violence from the game, he said.
"I don't think there's any place for fighting . . . it needs to be banned," Pollett said.
Ontario's Labour Ministry was called in to investigate.