An unfortunate incident occurred Saturday during an intense NHL game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. A referee had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher after a brutal collision with Lightning player Haydn Fleury.

The incident seemed completely unintentional, and both teams gathered on the ice to honor the referee following the incident. The official lost consciousness as a result of the impact, per Hockey Feed. Fleury also left the game following the collision and didn't return. He was seen bleeding as he left the ice. It was unclear at the time of writing if the reason was due to that injury or a personal decision following the traumatic situation. The official was identified as Steve Kozari, who was also honored by the fans as he left the ice.

The head-to-head collision was certainly not intentional, but it is also the latest in a very long string of incidents involving collisions on the ice involving players. The NHL is working overtime at trying to reprimand and prevent players from getting involved in collisions on the ice that involve upper body injuries.

The league may also now look into additional safety protocols for officials as well as players, so blind side hits like the one during Saturday's Lightning-Penguins game don't happen often in the future. The league is making efforts to protect referees as well as players. The NHL just suspended Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman three games for an incident when he threw his hockey stick toward referees.

Kozari has refereed more than 1,000 career NHL games, per Bleacher Report, including four Stanley Cup finals. He was seen making physical movements with his hands as he left the ice on the stretcher, so that is promising news. The unfortunate incident occurred in the third period of the game between the two Eastern Conference teams in Pittsburgh.

Fleury is a defenseman who has five total points on the season for the Lightning. Four of those points come from assists. He has played for the team since the 2022-23 season, also spending time in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and Seattle Kraken. The defenseman has scored 10 career goals in the league, to go with 27 assists. Fleury's point total this season is the highest it has been since 2020, with the Hurricanes.

The Penguins would go on to win the game Saturday against the Lightning, 5-4. The game finished with one referee and two lines persons, per Fans of both teams are certainly hoping for a speedy recovery for both men.