NHL provides update on referee Steve Kozari after scary collision

Mike Armenti
April 7, 2024  (10:56)

NHL referee Steve Kozari taken off the ice on a stretcher
Photo credit: RDS

The National Hockey League has provided an update on the health of referee Steve Kozari following a scary incident during yesterday's game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh, the Lightning and the Penguins battled to a 5-4 decision, with the Penguins picking up the two points in an all-important game with huge playoff implications for the Pens. Unfortunately, Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury had collided with an unsuspecting Kozari, clashing helmet to helmet, causing Kozari to fall back and strike his head on the ice, knocking him unconscious. The NHL official was stretchered off the ice as a result of the collision, and Fleury departed the game as well after being shaken up on the play.
Following the game, both head coaches, Tampa's Jon Cooper and Pittsburgh's Mike Sullivan provided their thoughts on the incident from their point of view from the benches. Both were quite concerned and it was apparent during their comments that the game comes at you fast, even from a coach's vantage point.
"I caught it out of the corner of my eye. Tampa's defenseman ... was coming off the bench. I think both of them were looking at the puck, as was I. So I caught it out of the corner of my eye. But at the last second, they collided and, I believe, they hit helmet to helmet, so it was really a scary collision because I don't think Steve had the ability to break his fall when he fell to the ice. We certainly hope he's going to be OK. That was a scary moment in the game."
-Sullivan on the Fleury/Kozari collision

"That was tough to watch. We've had, between that one and [Tampa Bay defenseman Mikhail] Sergachev, we've had some tough instances to see that happen. But 'Fleur,' I went into the locker room during that pause. Naturally, he was a little shook up. It was just one of those plays that was kind of a freak accident. But hopefully, both guys will be OK."
-Cooper on the collision that brought play to a screeching halt

Kozari, a veteran NHL official, has overseen 1,151 career regular season games in the league and has also had the call in 136 playoff games. He has also officiated four Stanley Cup Finals - an honour typically only bestowed upon the NHL's most trusted officials.
Following the incident, Kozari, 46, had been transported to hospital in Pittsburgh as a precaution, and on Saturday evening, the National Hockey League took to social media to provide an important update on his status following the incident.
"Referee Steve Kozari was transported to UPMC Mercy hospital for precautionary reasons after a collision with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury in the third period of the Penguins-Lightning game this afternoon. Kozari is conscious and alert, has the use of all of his extremities and is expected to make a full recovery."

With the players, coaches, fans and media all showing a great deal of concern for Kozari over the last 18 hours or so, it's good to hear that he's doing well and that he's expected to recover from the injury. With everything we know and everything we don't know about traumatic brain injuries, you certainly feel for Kozari and wish him all the best in his recovery.
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NHL provides update on referee Steve Kozari after scary collision

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