NHL referee stretchered off ice after scary collision with a player

Today’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning served as an unfortunate reminder of the dangers that come with being an NHL referee.

Early in the third period, referee Steve Kozari was knocked unconscious after colliding with Lightning defenceman Haydn Fleury. The 50-year-old remained on the ice for quite some time before eventually being taken off by a stretcher. ESPN’s Leah Hextall said that Kozari was unconscious for a brief period of time.

“What a moment we just saw there as the two teams left their benches for Steve Kozari,” Hextall said. “What I can tell you from what I was informed from the ice officials is that upon the hit with Fleury, there was a moment of unconsciousness for Steve.”

While this is certainly a scary incident, there was good news, as Kozari was said to have movement of his extremities.

As the video shows, Fleury was quite shaken up from the collision himself, and after getting back onto his feet, went straight down the Lightning tunnel. The 27-year-old defenceman has a goal and five points in 23 games this season.

Kozari, who wears No. 40, has been refereeing in the NHL since the 2003-04 season. He has been selected to officiate two Stanley Cup Finals, the first in 2014 and the second in 2019.

Despite Kozari’s absence, this game continued on, with the Pittsburgh Penguins walking away with a 5-4 victory. It’s a huge win for the Pens in their quest for a playoff position but feels far less important given what transpired. Let’s hope both Kozari and Fleury are okay and are able to return in a short time.