NHL Referee Hospitalized Injured After Scary In-Game Collision

Referee Steve Kozari was hospitalized following an in-game collision

Getty Referee Steve Kozari was hospitalized following an in-game collision

There was a frightening moment in the game played between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, April 6, as NHL referee Steve Kozari had to be stretchered off the ice in the third period of the game and later hospitalized.

Kozari collided with Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury near the center of the rink in the final frame of the Penguins’ 5-4 win over Tampa Bay. Play was immediately stopped and emergency response personnel attended Kozari on the ice.

The collision was not shown live but a replay was aired after the play happened.

Shortly after Kozari was stretchered off the ice and hospitalized, the NHL Public Relations Department released a statement announcing the status of the veteran referee.

“Kozari was transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital for precautionary reasons,” read the official statement published on Saturday, April 6. “Kozari is conscious and alert, has the use of all of his extremities and is expected to make a full recovery.”

Later on the day and in a segment of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, it was reported that “Kozari was scheduled to work the game Sunday between the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres, but that he will now be replaced,” according to the Associated Press via ABC.

Steve Kozari Has Been An NHL Referee for 18 Seasons

The head coaches from both teams involved in the game spoke after the game discussing the action leading to Kozari’s hospitalization.

“I caught it out of the corner of my eye,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters in his postgame press conference on April 6. “At the last second, they collided and I believe they hit helmet-to-helmet.

“It was really a scary collision. I don’t think Steve had the ability to break his fall when he fell to the ice. We certainly hope he’s gonna be OK. That was a scary moment in the game.”

Jonn Cooper, head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, also shared a short comment on the play.

“That was tough to watch,” Cooper told reporters after the game. “[Fleury], 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.”

Kozari, 50 years old, has officiated more than 1,200 throughout his 18 years as an NHL referee. He has also been named an official in 136 playoff games and four Stanley Cup Finals, according to NHL.com Independent Correspondent Wes Crosby.

Penguins Take Possession of Second Wild-Card Berth

When it comes to actual game results, the Penguins snatched a highly unexpected win from the paws of the Lightning on Saturday beating Tampa Bay 5-4 after taking a 4-1 and holding off their foes.

Trade-deadline acquisition Michael Bunting broke a late 4-4 tie to give Pittsburgh the lead for good with just 5:28 left in regulation. Sidney Crosby opened the score hitting his 40th goal of the season, Evgeni Malkin added two goals, and Kris Letang scored his 9th goal this year before the Lightning tied the game with three goals in the third period.

“We hung in there,” coach Sullivan said after the game. “Tampa’s a really good team.”

“It’s just disappointing because (if) we play like that all game, then we maybe have a different result,” Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos told reporters in his postgame press conference. “A case of too little, too late.”

The win, paired with Philadelphia’s loss on the same slate of games, saw the Penguins (36-30-11, 83 points in 77 games) leapfrog the Flyers (36-31-11, 83 points in 78 games) in the standings.

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