NHL referee Steve Kozari knocked unconscious after collision

Ryan Smitheram
April 6, 2024  (3:56 PM)

Referee Steve Kozari was stretchered off following a collision
Photo credit: NHL/ESPN

Referee Steve Kozari was knocked unconscious following a nasty center-ice collision with Tamp Bay Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury during Saturday afternoon's Lightning/Penguins game.

Mid-way through the third period of Saturday afternoon's matinee game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, a scary scene occurred. Referee Steve Kozari was turning at center-ice while watching the play come towards him. Unfortunately, as he was turning, Fleury was skating towards the play to track down the puck on the opposite side of the ice. The two collided in an awkward way, which sent them both to the ice.
As you can see in the video, Kozari appeared to be knocked out when his head hit the ice. Play immediately stopped as eleven medical personnel attended to Kozari. After what seemed like an eternity, paramedics finally put Kozari on a stretcher and carted him off the ice. Players from both teams gave him "taps" and well-wishes as he was taken off the ice. Kozari was able to move his hands and fingers, which is a very good sign
For Tampa, Fleury was able to get up after remaining on the ice for a few moments but did exit the game. A short time later, Tampa Bay announced he would not be returning to the game.
The finish to the game was a wild one, with ex-Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting scoring the eventual game-winner at 14:32 of the third period. Bunting has been a very nice fit for the Penguins since being acquired in the Jake Guenztel deal, and as a result of today's win, the Pens are now officially in a Wild Card spot with the playoffs now just a couple of short weeks away. Both the Islanders and Flyers play later this evening, so that could change imminently.
As for Kozari, the 20-year veteran has reffed over 1100 regular season games and 136 playoff games including four Stanley Cup Finals, and a handful of outdoor games. Our thoughts are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery.
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NHL referee Steve Kozari knocked unconscious after collision

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