Saturday, June 26, 2004

Todd Bertuzzi Charged With Assault

The British Columbia Crown Police have decided to charge Canuck Todd Bertuzzi for assault causing bodily harm in response to his on-ice, attack-from-behind, sucker-punch that left Steve Moore of the Avs severely injured. Moore was left with a severe concussion and broken neck. Doctors are unsure whether he will be able to play competitive hockey again. After the March 8 incident in Vancouver, NHL executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell suspended Bertuzzi for the final 13 regular season games, as well as the entire 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs (which amounted to seven games for Vancouver). In addition, Gary Bettman must reinstate Bertuzzi to the NHL, something Todd has yet to request. This aspect of the punishment allows the NHL to extend Bertuzzi's suspension into the next season, something that Bettman would be more likely to do with a shorter Canuck playoff run. Money-wise, the Canucks organization was fined $250,000 and Bertuzzi lost almost $500,000 in salary for missed-games. The charge against Bertuzzi is the result of four months of Crown investigation, and Bertuzzi is set to appear in provincial court on July 9. I have a hard time figuring why it took four months to investigate what happened, since there are countless camera angles that show Bertuzzi following Moore the entire shift leading up to the attack. In addition, several Canucks players had vowed revenge in response to Moore's hit on Markus Naslund, which left him out for 3 games with a concussion. There's no question that the Canucks wanted Moore's head, and I'm sure the tough guys on the Canucks were given special instructions to meet this demand for revenge. Bertuzzi has since apologized for the attack: "I had no intention of hurting you. I feel awful for what transpired" and "I don't play the game that way. I'm not a mean-spirited person." The most chilling part of the apology is the apparent detachment of saying "I don't play the game that way" when you clearly do. I'd like to ask him, 'Who does play the game that way, Todd? Who was that who attacked Steve Moore?' There is a recent precedent to on-ice attacks leading to criminal charges. In February 2000, Marty McSorley was charged for hitting Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. There is a major difference between the McSorley and Bertuzzi incidents. Brashear was injured more from hitting the back of his head on the ice than the actual stick-swinging. McSorley didn't direct Brashear's head into the ice like Bertuzzi did with Moore. With Bertuzzi, there was the sucker-punch, and then Bertuzzi jumping on Moore's back, slamming his face into the ice. It is likely that this is what broke Moore's neck. In addition, Bertuzzi tried to punch Moore again as he lay on the ice unconscious, but, fortunately, Avs came to his aid. I see much more intent to injure and severity in what Todd Bertuzzi did. In the end, McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon, and given an 18-month conditional discharge. He never played in the NHL again, and is now head coach of the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. Bertuzzi is probably facing probation if convicted. As for my personal views on the Bertuzzi incident, I'll defer you back to my March 10 article, "Bertuzzi Disgraces Our Game."


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