NHL Official Steve Barton
OTTAWA, ON - MARCH 27: Linesman Steve Barton (59) before a face-off during second period National Hockey League action between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators on March 27, 2023, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If you follow hockey at any level, you are well familiar with the phrase “Hockey Players Are Built Different.” This saying is generally meant as a compliment. A testament to the toughness of almost all hockey players (yes, even Sidney Crosby).

Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.com, free to use under the Unsplash license

Well, it turns out, hockey officials are built different too. NHL linesman Steve Barton is proof of that.

Officiating the New York Rangers-Vancouver Canucks game on Monday, Barton was struck on the chin by a player’s stick. It happens to officials from time to time, but what happened next is what makes hockey players (and officials) different.

Rather than blow the play dead immediately, Barton grabbed a towel from the bench close to where he was standing, pressed it against his face, and continued to call the game until there was a normal stoppage in play (that he blew the whistle on).

Barton briefly left the ice so he could get patched up. He then returned to the game with several stitches on his chin and called the game to its conclusion. (The Canucks ended up beating the Rangers 6-3.)

Barton’s Return To The Game

While video of the initial injury is not currently available (and we might not want to show it even if it was), X account Ryan Reynolds shared a video yesterday of Barton’s return to the game.

In the clip, Barton (and his stitched-up chin gash) skates calmly over to the Vancouver bench to get a small bandage to mop up his still-bleeding face. After a little maintenance, he skates back into the action … just as calmly.

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Not His First Rodeo

This wasn’t Barton’s first incident where he took an errant stick. In 2015, he was officiating a game between Pittsburgh and Arizona when he caught a stick square in the mouth from Penguins winger Chris Kunitz.

NHL official Steve Barton takes an errant stick to the face from Penguins Chris Kunitz
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NHL official Steve Barton takes an errant stick to the face from Penguins forward Chris Kunitz.
NHL Linesman Steve Barton
NHL Linesman Steve Barton after taking a stick to the face in 2015.

In that instance, Barton was not able to return to the game, but he went out on his skates.

A Long Hockey Pedigree

It comes as no surprise, after these events, that Barton is a former hockey player himself. Most NHL officials are, at some level. He won a championship with the Vankleek Hill Cougars Junior C hockey team at 19. This was the same age that he started officiating games, initially in the minors before working his way up to the NHL in 2000.

Over his career, Barton has officiated nearly 1,500 games, 143 playoff games, and three Stanley Cup Finals (including in 2022 and 2023).

Hockey fans will always complain about officiating. It’s part of being a fan, after all. But there is little to question about the professionalism, love of the game, and toughness as strong as any NHL player that linesman Steve Barton possesses.

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