Longtime NHL Referee Steve Kozari Makes a Triumphant Return To The Ice

Steve Kozari is a longtime NHL referee who recently made headlines after a scary collision with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury earlier this month. The collision, which took place at center ice during a game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Lightning, left Kozari lying motionless on the ice. Fleury, on the other hand, skated off to the locker room, and unfortunately, did not return to the game. Kozari, however, was transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital for precautionary reasons. Fortunately, he was conscious and alert, with the use of all his extremities, and was expected to make a full recovery.

Despite the scary incident, Kozari made a triumphant return to the ice this past Sunday. He worked his 137th career Stanley Cup playoff game alongside fellow referee Kyle Rehman and linesmen Michel Cormier and Bevan Mills during the Vancouver Canucks’ victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. This marked Kozari’s return to the ice after missing the remainder of the regular season following the collision with Fleury.

Both Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan and Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper expressed their concern and well wishes for Kozari’s recovery after the collision. Sullivan described the collision as a scary moment in the game, emphasizing the helmet-to-helmet impact that left Kozari motionless on the ice. Cooper echoed Sullivan’s sentiments, stating that the collision was a freak accident and expressing hope for the well-being of both Kozari and Fleury.

Despite the frightening incident, postseason play is not new to Kozari. He has skated in the Stanley Cup Final four times, showcasing his experience and expertise as an NHL referee. In the recent game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators, Kozari and his crew demonstrated their professionalism by calling a relatively clean game, with only 12 minutes in penalties, including eight on the Canucks.

Steve Kozari’s return to the ice after the collision with Haydn Fleury is a testament to his resilience and dedication to the sport of hockey. Despite the challenges he faced, Kozari’s comeback exemplifies his passion for officiating and his commitment to the game. As he continues to officiate games and contribute to the NHL, Kozari’s presence on the ice serves as an inspiration to fans, players, and fellow officials alike.


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