"I played minor hockey up there. I'm from Penticton, and we went up for tournaments so I've been there before. It's beautiful up there. It's great for Terrace to get NHL hockey up there."
-- Referee Steve Kozari
Last year's Kraft Hockeyville event in Roberval, Quebec, was something NHL referee Justin St. Pierre and his crew likely still have fresh in their memory banks.
St. Pierre was fortunate enough to have worked the Sept. 2008 exhibition game that allowed the Montreal Canadiens
to head five hours to the north to play in front of fans who thought they'd never live to see the day. On that special night in Roberval, the Canadiens skated away with a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres
Now, it's Steve Kozari's turn. The 36-year-old, who is a native of Penticton, British Columbia, gets to travel north in his province to the small town of Terrace to referee Monday night's NHL preseason opener between the Vancouver Canucks
and New York Islanders
Although Kozari grew up roughly 1,300 kilometers (or 800 miles) from Terrace, this won't be his first trip there.
"I played minor hockey up there," Kozari told NHL.com. "I'm from Penticton, and we went up for tournaments so I've been there before. It's beautiful up there. It's great for Terrace to get NHL hockey up there."
Kozari will be one of four British Columbia natives to officiate Monday's game. He will be joined by referee Kelly Sutherland (Richmond), as well as linesmen Lonnie Cameron (Victoria) and Brad Lazrowich (Vancouver). The foursome is slated to arrive on Sunday afternoon, just in time to run a two-hour clinic for aspiring officials at the Terrace Sportsplex.
"I'm very excited," Kozari said. "It's a four-man crew and we're all from B.C. We're going up a day ahead to work with some of the local officials there. We're going to have a seminar and do a skate with them. It gives us a chance to give back. I want to bring up one of my jerseys to give that away. It'll be exciting. I'm really looking forward to it. We'll have fun."
Kozari said he spoke with last year's crew -- St. Pierre, fellow referee Marc Joannette and linesmen Michel Cormier and Pierre Champoux -- about what to expect during Kraft Hockeyville weekend, but in reality, it's an event one needs to see to believe.
"They said it was awesome," Kozari said. "I know Justin was from (Roberval). He said the NHL took care of us. It was a great event all around. We're hoping for the same thing, and I'm sure it will be."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com