Referee bends the rules to favor the Florida Panthers causing controversy

Tyler Ball
June 9, 2024  (11:21)

Referee Steve Kozari making a call during a game in the NHL involving the Washington Capitals
Photo credit: Scouting The Refs

Today a clip of a referee being caught bending the rules during the Eastern Conference Finals has shown that he might have a favoritism toward the Florida Panthers.

The job of a referee in any sport is difficult and to do it at the highest level is something that most people do not envy the pressure of. Today the spotlight has been placed on referee Steve Kozari after an incident he had during the Eastern Conference Finals.
During the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers series referee Steve Kozari was on the ice. At one point during the game Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere shoved Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk in the back. Instead of calling a penalty Steve Kozari went up to Matthew Tkachuk and told him to shove Alexis Lafreniere back.
«He gave you a shot, give him one back»
Matthew Tkachuk obliged giving Alexis Lafreniere more of a joking shove and the three laughed about the situation with Alexis Lafreniere asking if he gets a shove back now. In isolation this situation seems harmless for all involved. However, it sets a dangerous precdent for the Stanley Cup Finals.
Steve Kozari was selected as one of the referees for the Stanley Cup Finals. During game one there were no major incidents but things did get chippy toward the end of the game. If Steve Kozari allows things like he did in the Eastern Conference Finals going forward there could be issues.
Here are the four referees making the calls when the #StanleyCup Final starts tomorrow:
🦓 Jean Hebert 🇨🇦 2nd Cup Final
🦓 Steve Kozari 🇨🇦 5th Cup Final
🦓 Dan O'Rourke 🇨🇦 7th Cup Final
🦓 Chris Rooney 🇺🇸 7th Cup Final
While this can be chalked up to players and referees wanting to have fun and joke during a high-pressure moment it does create a narrative going forward. If Steve Kozari or this referee team screws up a major call look for this to be looked back on not as fondly.