We’ve all heard it ad nauseam: “Hockey players are the toughest athletes.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that NHL referees are among the toughest — if not the toughest — officials in any sport.

Early in the the third period of Friday’s Game 4 between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, referee Francois St. Laurent (epic hockey name) lost his footing and went careening into the boards. After finishing the third period, St. Laurent was replaced in overtime by backup ref Brad Watson, who watched the Bolts earn a 4-3 win to go up 3-1 in the second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series.

(You can click here to watch video of St. Laurent’s fall.)

Given that St. Laurent officiated to the end of regulation, the injury he sustained during his crash couldn’t have been that bad, right? Wrong.

Check out this tweet from Sportsnet’s John Shannon:


The officials in the Bruins-Lightning series have come under fire, and for good reason. Tampa absolutely has been the better team in the best-of-seven series, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t benefited from woefully inconsistent officiating.

Now, we’re not saying that St. Laurent’s gritty effort excuses him from criticism. He does demand your respect, however, for displaying some truly remarkable toughness.

Thumbnail photo via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports Images