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Todd Bertuzzi’s name is defended by a fellow hockey “enforcer”. Why?

One of the consistent themes I have tried to stress here at VLM is that part of being a fan, including being a Maple Leaf fan, is that while we all share a passion for the team (and many of us also have an appreciation for the franchise’s history and legacy as well) it’s important that, when we discuss any issue relating to the team or hockey in general, we are respectful to one another—even when our opinions part ways.

Normally I will listen to any point of view that is well considered and thoughtfully presented here, even if I may vehemently disagree with the view put forward.  Comments that differ from my point of view are always posted here, as long as they rise to the above level of discussion:  mutual respect.

I will of course maintain that posture with anyone who would like to add their thoughts on what I am writing about today, but let me fore-mention that I am pretty inflexible on the subject:  in short, I am stunned by the comments attributed this week to former Colorado Avalanche forward Scott Parker.

To be honest, Parker’s career doesn’t resonate much with me.  If I hadn't stumbled across the article I will refer to, I wouldn't really know who he is.  (That may make me an un-informed hockey "fan", but so be it.  I'm guessing there are hockey fans in Colorado who don't know who our "enforcers" are.)  While the Avs were a fine team during most of Parker's tenure and his “enforcer” role is an important one on most any team, he’s just not the kind of player I would have paid much attention to.  He scored 7 goals in a 10-year NHL career as a 240-pound tough-guy winger.

He “won” a Cup with the Avalanche in 2001, though he played in only 4 games in the playoffs, averaging 2 minutes a game.  So while I’m sure his teammates would say he was integral to their success as their regular-season  “protector”,  I don't know enough about his play to assess his contributions.

I don't doubt he was “good” at his job, as are “enforcers” who, according to the way the game is played, keep the other team “honest”- in the hockey parlance.  But I’m more of the kind of fan who admires what I consider true toughness.  Not the guys who just fight to fight, but tough guys who can do that if necessary, sure, but who also play hard along the boards, in the corners and in front of the net—and play real minutes.  Players who can deliver good, clean hits and play hard all over the ice like, say,  Bob Gainey or Bob Nystrom did in their era, players of that ilk.  You know, NHL’ers who can hit but also score a few goals, who can make plays and are hard to play against.

In Maple Leaf history, I think of a Bert Olmstead, as tough a player as there ever was but who was a lot more than a fighter.  I think of long-time captain George Armstrong, who fought for every inch of ice but usually did it within the rules.  (That's Armstrong at left in the spring of 1963, pictured with a very young Dave Keon, after a Stanley Cup victory.) I have fond memories of many such Leafs through the years, including, for example, Brian Spencer, Scott Garland and in more recent times, Gary Roberts.  Guys who could fight, yes, but brought a lot more than that and who played between the whistles.

In any event, I came across a link to an Avalanche site (Mile High Hockey), an excellent blog which featured an interview with Parker this week.  It’s a fine article, well-written.  All very interesting stuff, as most any open-ended interview is when the subject is known and speaks candidly.

So while it was a revealing “interview” and certainly an interesting article to read, what I found disturbing are some of the comments attributed to Parker, where, as I interpreted it, he absolutely and unequivocally defends Bertuzzi’s violent attack on Steve Moore in a game in Vancouver back in 2004.

Now, we all understand the supposed “code” (here we go again with codes) that tough guys, just as they "defend" their teammates on the ice, defend one another in public—evidently because they have a difficult job to do and only they can really understand one another. I sort of get that, but only to a point.

But you don’t have to go far to read between the lines that he seems to be suggesting that Moore (his former teammate with Colorado) deserved what he got.  Parker is quoted as saying that Moore went to Harvard, “and always thought he was better than everybody else…”.  Parker went on to say, “I never went to college, but I can kick your ass. I’ll bring you right down to my level if you want.  I’ll hit you about four times in the skull and I’ll bring you right down…”.

Wow.  It actually gets worse from there.  (He actually suggests Bertuzzi tried to cushion the blow that Moore received from Bertuzzi…really??)  So I guess the age-old attitude still lives in some people who seem to resent or envy “intelligence” or what they perceive as someone who they (the critic) believe (the guy they don't like) "thinks" he's smarter than other people.  This kind of attitude seems to be, "don’t walk around like you think you're smart, fella, or I’ll punch your lights out...". 

It’s OK to walk around and be a tough hockey guy, I guess, but God forbid we have an intelligent athlete in the NHL.  Who wants that?  And before you say, “Michael, this has nothing to do with Moore being a smart guy, or being educated, it’s because he hit Naslund in an earlier game with a questionable hit…”…listen to what Parker is really saying.  Read the words.  C’mon.  We all know what’s he means.  Heck, he says it.

This is not, to me, what life—or hockey—is supposed to be about.

Maybe next, we’ll hear that this piece is recommended reading for young people.  What an example of advanced thinking, eh?

But don't go by what I am saying.  I recommend that you read the piece, highlighted above.  Look, Parker may be a “nice” guy, a good family man and a wonderful teammate in his playing days.  I have no idea and I certainly have no insight about those things.  But the world is full of “nice” people who hold views on particular subjects that others find sickening.  Sometimes people are held to account in some type of public forum when they express such views, but I’m guessing this will simply pass because, hey, Parker was an NHL tough guy.  And yes, we, thankfully, live in a free society and individuals are allowed to express themselves, as they should be.

But I, for one, found his reported comments around Bertuzzi revealing, disturbing and quite frankly, beyond unacceptable.  I have no issue with a guy standing up for a friend who has fallen on hard times.  I get that.  Maybe that's what Parker was trying to do.

The real discussion point, though, is that we’re talking about a guy (Moore) whose entire life was changed forever because Bertuzzi apparently felt the need to “pay Moore back” from an earlier hit on Naslund—again, the “code”.  In this discussion, it is important to note that what Bertuzzi did was after Moore had already fought a Canuck to try and, presumably, "do what he had to do" after the Naslund hit, and “deal” with the anger that had bubbled up in the Vancouver organization. (Wasn't there a Canuck player who used the term "bounty" before the infamous game?  What does that tells us?)

So here we are in 2012.  We’re trying (yet again) to get away from violence in the game.  We want to get away from hitting from behind (Bertuzzi’s hit was certainly that, though it was much more than a “hit”). Millions of dollars are quite rightly being spent on research into concussions.  Ex-players are suing the leagues they played in.  All leagues are finally punishing (though still  relatively lightly) hits that cause these concussions and what now are proven to be long-term  health issues.   (Bertuzzi’s hit caused more than a concussion- it was much worse than that…).  We’re trying to rid hockey of extreme, “illegal” violence. (Bertuzzi’s actions were certainly that).  Surely, we are trying to send a message to young people and young athletes?  What was Betuzzi’s message?  What was the NHL's in 2004?  What is Parker’s now?

I mean, most of us appreciate hard-hitting, rugged, tough play in hockey players.  But what Bertuzzi did?  Someone is defending that?  Really?  What did that have to do with hockey?

Not that Parker, based on his enlightened public comments, would likely care much for criticism from someone like myself.  I, of course, never played the game (dare I mention that I received a “college education” many, many years ago?) so what could I possibly know?  Perhaps his response would be to give me four blows to the head, to re-arrange my IQ—and my thinking so I could better understand why Bertuzzi is such a swell guy, and why we should all understand why he did what he did to Moore—and how poor Todd got a bum rap. Maybe after those blows to the head, I could see the world the way Parker does, eh?

Those who have read my position on Bertuzzi in the past know I feel strongly that the NHL really glossed over what he did.  Because of the lockout season, he actually missed precious little time in the end as a result of his suspension.  Hell, what Raffi Torres did this past playoff year was tame compared with Bertuzzi’s beyond-flagrant act of obvious and vigilante-style retribution. At least you could argue that Torres was engaged in a "hockey play".  It was a big-time hit.  His mistake was that it was a late hit, and perceived to be a "head shot".  Bertuzzi's actions were in a league of their own.

Yet we all just want to walk away from the truth.  It's way too uncomfortable.  We want to forget that this guy was “rewarded” by being named to Team Canada after his actions against Moore, welcomed with open arms, in fact.  That he has continued to earn millions in a league that looked the other way.  The Avalanche looked the other way, too.  The league sure did.  We all did, as hockey fans.  Who cares about Steve Moore, right?

That Moore went to Harvard makes him a bad guy somehow?  Interesting standard.  Moore apparently had an ego, according to Parker.  How dare Moore think he’s “smart”- if that's indeed what the accusation from Parker was?  Of course, name me an NHL player that doesn’t think he’s “good” at something?  Many of them seemingly think they’re better than everyone else, including off the ice.  It is a life of privilege these players lead.  But a hit on Naslund necessitated what Bertuzzi did?

I have had no respect or regard for the people in charge of the NHL at the time, or of the Canuck organization at the time, since that day—nor for Bertuzzi.

But to hear this kind of garbage from a 7-goal NHL’er, almost a decade after the fact, in the environment that we're in, the societal climate that Parker must be aware of, is beyond shocking to me.

We often complain that athletes don’t say what they really mean.  Well, Parker sure said what he meant.

Too bad it’s about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in the more than 50 years I’ve been following hockey.


  1. Oh,man. Reading that interview with Parker was stomach churning.Beard and tattoos aside,the guy is scum. Makes a smalltown Canadian boy look positively erudite. Season high stat=2 goal scorer in the NHL. The Avs themselves terminated his contract. No Syl Apps, he.

  2. Thanks for posting, Sean. Surely, hearing that kind of "opinion", out loud, has to trouble people, no?

  3. Well, this is just sad and ridiculous at the same time. I personally don't really get outraged or offended by pretty much anything anyone says; people are entitled their opinions. On the other hand, I don't feel I need to respect opinions that I feel are just plain stupid, as in this case.

    The Bertuzzi-Moore incident is not exactly a recent one, but it is something that probably won't be forgotten any time soon, as it is probably the ultimate cheapshot in modern hockey. Let's hope it stays that way, I'm sure most people wouldn't want to see anything worse than that. Now, I understand that it probably wasn't premeditated as such, and that Bertuzzi honestly feels really, really bad about it for a very, very long time. And he should feel bad. Since he's still earning NHL-money, I think he's learned to deal with it.

    Bertuzzi's character outside that incident was never the issue, which seems to completely elude Parker's train of thought, if indeed he has a train of thought. When someone does something completely sickening, it's sickening no matter who did it. That it happened in a rink also doesn't make it cartoon violence, as some people seem to think. Saying "well, yeah, it was pretty bad, but, you know, hockey's a tough game, players sometimes get carried away" is an argument comparable to something like "yeah, he ran over and killed that guy with his car, but he was drunk, and people sometimes do stupid things when they're drunk". Whether the guy who did it was nice or not doesn't enter it. Parker thinks Bertuzzi got a raw deal? Fair enough. But premeditated or not, an assault is no accident, and definitely not a hockey play. When Joe Average assaults someone and breaks their neck in the process, he's not going to get suspended, he's looking at jail time. Saying Bertuzzi got off easy is a massive understatement.

    If Parker feels the need to manually lower the IQ of everyone smarter than him, he should probably get started right away, because he has his work cut out for him. Or maybe the whole thing was a misunderstanding, and he thought he was recording a professional wrestling spot, which would make more sense. Go figure.

  4. thank you for posting this article michael. yahoo-sports had an editorial discussing the interview, where the author seemed to glorify parker's words. many of the comments on the yahoo article seemed to agree with the editorial piece!
    i thought i woke up in bizzaro-world. why is this no-name thug being interviewed at all, and why is he defending a vicious attack that occurred nearly a decade ago? beyond that, as you related, he seems to suggest that moore 'had it coming to him,' because of his personality/background. i see. in other words, parker didn't see eye-to-eye with moore, may have been envious/jealous of him, and (gasp!) may have disliked him... is that EVER a moral reason for a person to deserve being assaulted/battered? oh, moore hit another player inappropriately prior to this hit. hitting is part of hockey, but the players are supposed to act professionallly. bertuzzi lost his mind when he crushed/paralyzed moore. this wasn't a hockey-hit... it wasn't even a mafia-hit! it was a vicious, violent attack of a man who completely lost his temper.
    your article put my mind at ease to see others feeling the way i do. cheers!

  5. That's an outstanding post, CGLN. Thank you. You said in a few words a lot of what I was trying to convey. Great stuff.

  6. Thank you very much, Alec. You've framed the concerning element of this interview very, very well.

    I don't doubt there are people who will "support" Parker and/or Bertuzzi. But I find that saddening.

  7. Hi Michael,
    I would like to commend you on a passionate, well-written response to the comments of a former player who feels the need to dominate and bully others whose mental acuity is a challenge to his own brute strengths. His comments remind me of certain interactions endured in elementary school!

    Perhaps Parker’s perceptions have been diminished by the fisticuffs that punctuated his career (and pre-frontal lobes). It may well be that these are the only responses that are even possible for the man, and for that he has my pity… not likely what he would desire, nevertheless, the best that he may actually deserve.

    There are many well-spoken (former) enforcers whose example could be an inspiration to those who share the same role in the game, however, Parker does not appear too interested in pursuing such higher ideals!

    I have often wondered what went through Bertuzzi’s head as he approached Moore from behind. Was there only one thought there… “get even?” If that was the case, he failed miserably.

    I am glad you pointed out that Moore “had already fought a Canuck to try and, presumably, "do what he had to do" after the Naslund hit” – this is an element of the big picture that had never registered on my scale. Of course, as Burke would likely concur, such an action pursued by Moore would prevent the “Rat” label from being affixed. It also increases Bertuzzi’s culpability for the action taken, if indeed Moore had already answered the bell for his actions with Naslund.

    It was Bertuzzi that gave a ‘rat-like’ cheap shot from behind, but I have often wondered if he actually recognized ‘on the way down’ to the ice, that he was accomplishing a result far worse than intended… or perhaps, at least realized that this was going to be a far worse punishment than intended (or expected).

    It may be that these thoughts are only what went through my own head during all the slow motion replays of the event. Only Todd knows for sure what he was thinking. It seemed that Bertuzzi's large mass and his forearm upon the neck of Moore as they hit the ice, is most likely (in my opinion), the moment when the fracture happened.

    There is also one element of the consequences of his actions about which I wonder:

    Did Bertuzzi fall on Moore unintentionally or with the intent/purpose of ‘an extra measure’ of consequences being meted out. I hope it is the former, however, if it is the latter, then it is an act most despicable. Again, only Todd knows for sure.

    I should have preferred that, following the suspension, the league had established a policy to put Bertuzzi’s salary into escrow, with only a small portion released to him, so that the remainder could be used for the rehab and benefit of the man who lost his career. Perhaps this is an element that the Player's Association should address in concert with the league during the current CBA negotiations.

  8. On another note, I am glad you mentioned my cousin, Scott Garland, who I was most happy to watch playin for the Leafs. Not many ever bring up his name and I often wonder what his career might have looked like, if he had not died so tragically after the blown tire sent his car into a wall.

    Apparently, there were loose golf clubs in the back of his vehicle that flew into his neck at highway speeds when the vehicle came to an abrupt halt. The result was apparently gruesome (if I was told the details correctly).

    Here’s the only Scott Garland video clip I have found, with Scott blocking out Bernie Parent on a Turnbull goal, after which Bernie gave him a pretty good hack before one of the Flyers came in and cross-checked, then jumped on Scott (after which he was rather ‘upset’). The announcer thought there was a spear, but I don’t see it. This Vintage Leaf Memory can be viewed during the first few seconds on this YouTube link:

    It was one of many sparks during a Leaf-Flyer playoff game where multiple incidents ensued. The game was, rather ‘out of control’… ahhh – Broad Street Bully memories…

  9. can't believe I didn't see Scott's name on your list at the right (or the six articles that mention him). Looking forward to listening to the interview since I never spoke with him (just my mom and grandmother had that opportunity). Thanks again for your burgeoning archive!

  10. It is one of the most maddening things about our modern-day world, isn't it? Just when you think we are raising the minimum standards on things like education or bigotry, some numpty like this comes along. You may, as an interesting but nauseating adjunct, read the recent (9 July) article in the Washington Post outlining the education platform of the Republican Party in Texas where they stated their desire to remove critical thinking exercises from schools just in case it meant their children didn't all end up brainwashed Pentecostals with automatic pistols in their lunch boxes.

    In New Zealand (and elsewhere?) we call it the Tall Poppy Syndrome and woe is individual who betters themself beyond their blue-collar roots and then has the audacity to feel proud about it without prostrating themself first upon the alter of the forebears' blood, sweat and glorified ignorance.

    Where we can take some comfort, I suppose, is that now, in the 21st century, there are vehicles for outrage at such outliers as Parker and Cam Janssen like this blog where we can remind ourselves that these days these guys are the exceptions, the throwbacks.

  11. I grew up watching and playing hockey in a different era. There were tough guys such as John Ferguson, Lou Fontinato and Gerry James but they had skills to go along with their toughness. There was no room on the 18 player rosters for a goon. Players seemed to respect each other and cheap shots were few and far between.

    That culture gradually changed after expansion culminating with the Broadway Bullies. Dave Schultz had a sickening penalty total of 472 minutes in 1974-75. I remember watching the Philadelphia players mug Borje Salming every shift he was out there, mainly because they felt he was a soft European who didn't belong in the league.

    This tough guy mentality has evolved, with expanded rosters, to the point that some teams feel they can carry one dimensional goons. We are saddled with thugs such as Parker who condone and perpetrate dirty and vicious play. There can be no rationalizing Bertuzzi's actions and no thinking hockey fan would try to do so.

    Hockey is a beautiful game. There should be no place in it for the likes of Parker.

  12. Thanks for an insightful comment, InTimeFor62. I well remember your earlier visits and posts here.

    You're absolutely right, only Bertuzzi truly knows what he was thinking when he did what he did. The outcome was horrific.

    I like your escrow idea. I just wonder how the NHLPA, which always seems to care far more for the perpetrator than the victim, would respond to that notion...

  13. Garland was truly was of my favourite all-time Leafs. I loved how hard he worked and the way he played the game. Not supremely gifted, he earned everything he got. I interviewed him, one-on-one, at length, at a small radio station I was working at...I'm going to say it was the winter or spring of the 1976-'77 NHL season (probably spring of '77). Truly a nice individual.

    I was deeply saddened when I heard about the accident that took his life now many years ago.

    Thanks for mentioning him. For those who may not know much about his career, there is a post on this site about my memories of Scott (visit the "categories" section on the right-hand side of the site...).

    Thanks InTimeFor62.

  14. Apologies to everyone for my delay in responding to you....

    KiwiLeaf. So well said, thank you. It's heartwarming to know I am not out on an island in feeling as I do....

  15. Tremendous post, PeteCam. While I was very young, I too remember Gerry james and Leaping Lou Fontinato....and of course the tough but hockey-playing John Ferguson. They could all play hockey- not simply fight.

    Yes, the Flyers approach in the 1970s was sickening then, and helped to spawn the attitude we are still writing about with disappointment today.

    Thanks PeteCam.

  16. I have come to accept that fighting will be a never-ending debate in hockey, and I realize there is a sizeable percentage of fans (especially in the States) that go nuts for it, and for that reason it will always be part of the game. I for one have no problem with fighting in the proper context. I just happen to get yawn-struck when it's the staged crap between two goons (like Parker) right at the drop of the puck. I don't believe it brings anything to the game, integrity or impact-wise, and it is only tolerated to appease those fans who show up only to see a fight.
    When I think back to my own childhood and fighters, I think of Clark Gillies, Al Secord, hell even Tiger Williams, and that list can go on and on. The point is, those guys played their regular shift, they scored goals, lots of them in fact, and yes they kept the opposition honest. The expansion to 20-player rosters enabled teams to put guys like Scott Parker on the ice for four minutes of ice time and five for fighting.
    Well, to digress and comment on the matter at hand, Scott Parker's comments and general outlook on life and hockey, he is nothing more than a grade school bully. Too dumb to interact socially with the other kids, so just pound on them instead. What a world we live in that allows him to make a lot more money than the average working man to be a bully throughout his adult life too.
    I truly want to believe what they say about a lot of goons, they are pussycats off the ice, the nicest guys you'll meet, they are just doing what they have to do. Comments like this, and the recent tirade from Cam Janssen, however, do not do a lot of good for the public image of their brethren.

  17. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comments on this one, Pete. I, too, remember Gillies, Secord, Tiger, Terry O'Reilly and many others who played just as you describe: tough, hard-nosed hockey. They could and would fight, sure, but it wasn't the cowardly stuff that Bertuzzi did, which was beyond awful.

    And you well put into context Parker's words, which clearly have left some of us shaking our heads....