NHL referee Steve Kozari ‘expected to make a full recovery’

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By jeenmediaa

PITTSBURGH — Longtime NHL referee Steve Kozari left the ice on a stretcher Saturday after colliding with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Haydn Fleury during the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ 5-4 victory.

The collision took place at center ice with 13:49 remaining in the game at PPG Paints Arena. Fleury stood back up and skated off the ice and over to the Lightning locker room, while Kozari lay motionless while the training staffs of both teams tended to him. Fleury did not return.

A member of the NHL Officials Association since 2003, Kozari, 50, “was transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital for precautionary reasons,” according to a statement released by the NHL after the game. He was “conscious and alert,” the statement added, including that he had “use of all of his extremities” and was “expected to make a full recovery.”

On “Hockey Night in Canada” on CBC later Saturday night, 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.

“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,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “But at the last second, they collided and I believe they hit helmet to helmet, so 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 going to be OK. That was a scary moment in the game.”

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper concurred.

“That was tough to watch,” he said. “But [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.”

In the win, Michael Bunting snapped a tie with 5:28 left in the third period as the Penguins moved into a playoff spot. Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist for Pittsburgh, and Bunting also had two assists. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang also scored.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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