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As the NHL looks to “clean up” hockey and concerns over Sidney Crosby, why, I ask again, is Todd Bertuzzi still playing?

Maybe I’m just one of those people that won’t let go.  But as I see the NHL twisting itself into knots looking for reasons to suspend players (to ensure more in the way of player safety, I understand), I can’t help but think back to a time of hypocrisy in our great game.  And that is the incident involving the Vancouver Canucks and Todd Bertuzzi just a few short years ago.

We all know the story.  A relative NHL “nobody”, Steve Moore, had the temerity to hit then Canuck captain Markus Naslund with what was seen by some as a borderline "dirty" hit.  The Canucks vowed revenge, according various accounts—both privately and publicly.

The next time Colorado and Moore were in town, Moore accepted the challenge to fight, surely ending the need for any additional "retribution", one would have thought.

But that was not enough for Bertuzzi.  What then ensued was one of the most disgusting things anyone can imagine happening in a hockey game.  Hockey followers of that time well remember the awful incident.

Moore has never played again.  I’m not even sure if he has regained his health completely.  I believe some sort of civil action is still ongoing in the legal system in Canada, such as it is.

And after what turned out to be a pretty short suspension (the NHL counted the “lost season” due to the lockout as part of Bertuzzi’s punishment) he was back and playing—and making more millions in the NHL.

Heck, Hockey Canada, that supposed beacon of what is right and good in amateur sport, even selected Bertuzzi to “represent” Canada (what a role model for youngsters, eh?) at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

I don’t discount what the NHL is trying to do now, and what Brendan Shanahan is endeavoring to accomplish through some stiff suspensions to send a message that “head hits” of various descriptions are serious business and won’t be tolerated.  That's all good.

But it’s hard for me to take all this seriously on a certain level, when a guy who was a “superstar” at the time, Bertuzzi, received comparably little punishment back in 2004- and is still making a living while the “fourth-line guy” that he injured has never played again.

Some Canuck players and coaches have gone on to other hockey jobs and/or media careers.  Canuck execs of that time are all well employed, some with the Leafs.

The incident is all but forgotten, and everyone, from Gary Bettman on, has gone on with their "successful" lives.

But wait a minute.  Where was the league to help Steve Moore?

Yes, I’m glad they are now trying to stem the tide of hits from behind and dirty hits to the head.  I’m not sure you can ever rid the game of all head shots, because there are times that guys move a little and what would have been a fair hit becomes a dangerous one.  The game is so fast that it is impossible to curb everything, and I think most fans want to maintain the physical nature of the sport.  Otherwise, it’s not quite hockey.

But what Bertuzzi did was not physical hockey.  It had nothing to do with hockey at all.   It was brutal cowardice.  I’m not sure even a two-season suspension—fully served—would have been enough, because there is never really true “justice” when dealing with acts like that.  The NHL, though, didn’t even do that.  Since he didn’t hurt a “star”, the league basically ran away from its leadership role.  And we’ve all pretended since like it never really happened.

I wonder what Bertuzzi would get if he did the same thing now?  And if someone did the same thing to, say, Sidney Crosby, would that player ever be allowed on the ice again?

I realize I may be a lone voice on this one, but I would enjoy hearing the views of others.


  1. You're absolutely right. I recall your earlier post on this subject and my view also hasn't changed. Being a Red Wings fan, I'm totally embarassed every time he's on the ice and can't wait for his career to be over, especially since Moore is from our hometown of Windsor.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Gene. Good to hear from you.

  3. I think most would agree that Bertuzzi's mugging of Moore was reprehensible. That's the only black & white fact for me. After that, it's shades of gray. Where did the accountablity really lie? With the coaches? The hockey climate? The way the game had been played for a century? And if Bertuzzi's suspended for five years, say, which is basically the "eye-for-an-eye" approach, what about the guys who hit late and take another player out - like the hit on Kaberle a few years ago - effectively shortening the injured player's career? What about Scott Stevens and all the other players whose goal was to eliminate opposing players with "clean" hits to the head, and who ended a couple of careers doing so? To what degree do we punish them?
    I realize it's a question of degree, but all of the above was tolerated by the culture of hockey. If you crossed the line, as Bertuzzi did, there was a penalty - but it wasn't deemed a serious enough offence to end his career, even though that's what happened to Moore... and Lindros... and Marc Savard... and Mike Peca (hello, Darcy Tucker)...
    All to say that it's a question of changing the culture. So while we deplore certain acts, they will be ingrained in the game until the change occurs - which I think is finally happening.
    We should also remember that there is a civil suit, and Bertuzzi is likely to be penalized there, as well. Cold comfort, perhaps, but at least it's a recognition that behaviour like his won't be tolerated.