It's been a long road since March 8, 2004. The night Todd Bertuzzi punched Steve Moore in the back of the head and changed the course of people's lives, and those of the franchises involved in that game. As we stand here now on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the incident, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun has offered an update and some insight into the Moore Camp as they prepare for trial.
I was at the game that night. Ironically, I was taking my university roommate from Turkey to his first NHL game that night. Boy what an experience that was. As a Canucks fan taking in that game, I'd given up hope on the home team winning that night, as it was quickly 5-0 and wound up 9-2. The game was a powder keg, just waiting to explode. The Avalanche that season were full of talent and enforcers and very little in between.
Colorado's coach at the time, Tony Granato must've had quite the job that evening. With all the power plays for Colorado, do you continue to send Sakic, Hejduk, Kariya, Drury and the boys out to light up Vancouver? Or do you play the Peter Worrell's of your line up? One suggests you're running up the score and the other suggests you are looking for a fight. You don't really want to play Steve Moore either, but you do need to put five players on the ice.
Anyways, what happened happened. I stood and cheered at first, along with the rest of the arena as Bertuzzi grabbed Moore. Of course, none of us could have predicted the injuries that occurred, and as Moore lay there motionless for a brief time, we all collectively held our breath. Nobody wanted that to happen to Moore, and I think that list includes Todd Bertuzzi.
On the way home that evening, people were asking each other how long Bertuzzi will be suspended for, and in the hours and days that follow that number did nothing but increase. You see, regardless of the details of the incident, the media grabbed the story and ran with it. The NHL got all the exposure it wanted in all the wrong ways. Even TSN's Bob McKenzie's prediction ran from 'perhaps the remainder of the regular season' to 'the regular season and all of the playoffs and then who knows what'.
Perhaps no one in the media has gotten more mileage out of this story than the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons. Anyone who has read Simmons' articles or watched his appearances on TSN knows that he can be rather easy to dislike. I've sat back and watched him report on the Bertuzzi and Moore saga hoping to see some unbiased reporting. However, not having found any, I feel compelled to present some facts that represent the side of the story that Steve Simmons and a lot of the media simply are not sharing.
Back in 2005, a year after the incident, Steve Simmons wrote a piece about Steve Moore's family , but don't expect to see one about the other players involved, namely Markus Naslund or Todd Bertuzzi. Now I don't mean to infuriate anyone here, Steve Moore was the victim on March 8th, 2004, but not enough is being told of the earnings lost, the reputation lost, and the potential championships lost, and shame to the NHL from this incident. Does the blame for all of this lie on the shoulders of Todd Bertuzzi? Don't be so sure.
Simmons continued his coverage of the issue in 2009, with unbiased statements including how Bertuzzi 'pile-drove Moore', and how 'Bertuzzi lost a year to suspension, which suspiciously corresponded with the NHL's locked-out season, the large and occasionally punishing winger has been paid $16.4 million US to play professional hockey.'
Suspiciously? What are you suggesting, the NHL was happy about the labour disruption because it saved face reinstating Bertuzzi? That's ridiculous. Simmons goes on - 'Moore, who did nothing wrong but badly attempt to body check Markus Naslund, had his career ended on March 8, 2004, his income lost, his life severely altered.'
Well, that part is true, but a real article would articulate the issues on both sides of the story. Bertuzzi has earned $16.4 million in revenue. But as a result of the suspension, he lost over $1 million in salary, countless sponsorships, and the year away from hockey, it could be argued, shortened his own career, and certainly his actions on March 8th, 2004 have damaged his own reputation.
What Bertuzzi did was wrong, but at some point enough is enough. Indeed Moore also deserves reparations for the events that evening, but I can't understate the ramifications of this. Simmons would have you believe that Bertuzzi's life hasn't suffered at all, neither has Naslund's, or the NHL.
Moore's lawsuit against Bertuzzi will ensure that the NHL will suffer more public shame, and perhaps it should. It was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by lawyer Tim Danson, and seeks millions of dollars in lost wages and damages for Moore and his parents. It also named Orca Bay Ltd. partnership, Orca Bay Hockey Inc., and the Canucks. Moore demanded $15 million in lost wages, $1 million for aggravated damages and $2 million in punitive damages. I believe his parents also sought $2 million in damages.
Of course, it's debatable whether or not Moore would have earned $15 million in wages. The average NHL career salary is probably $4-5 million, and Moore was not a tremendous prospect. That number may be a bit of a stretch, but certainly Moore does deserve compensation.
What Moore doesn't deserve however, is extra sympathy because of his degree from Harvard, or because Bertuzzi fits the bill as a brutish, brawny hockey player who is easy to vilify. Think I'm exaggerating?
"Bertuzzi stalked Moore from behind. He sucker-punched him, likely to a state of unconsciousness. If Moore wasn't unconscious from the punch, he was after being slammed to ice, head first, by the force of Bertuzzi's body. Bertuzzi then tried to throw one more punch. Had it connected, it could have been the death blow. Only a hero named Andrei Nikolishin, then playing for the Colorado Avalanche, stepped in and grabbed Bertuzzi's arm, saving Moore and Bertuzzi at the very same time."
Death blow? Hero? I would have called Nikolishin a dog-piler, or a teammate, but not a hero. Simmons, take your bias out of it and report the facts.
KuklasKorner also has a good take on Simmons' bias and the media salivation over this spectacle.
The facts are, I'll admit to being a Vancouver Canucks fan. Journalism 101 suggests you present both sides of the story, and reading Simmons' vilification of Bertuzzi and not focusing on the underlying issues is inappropriate, especially seven years after the incident. I lost respect for Todd Bertuzzi on March 8, 2004. I feel sorry for Steve Moore. I feel sorry for Todd Bertuzzi. The more that Steve Moore draws this out, I lose respect for him or his legal team. Either Moore is exaggerating the effects of his injuries, or his legal team is doing a poor job in getting him a timely settlement.
Either way, the court of public opinion will not favour Moore the longer this drags on. The fans of the NHL will forgive with time and realize that as heinous as Bertuzzi's punch was, punches to the back of the head or hits from behind happen often, it is the injury that is unfortunate.
Bertuzzi has lost a legacy and has had a lawsuit hanging over his family's head for years. Markus Naslund was never the same after suffering a concussion from the hit Moore delivered that started this ordeal, the Vancouver Canucks were left short-handed in a promising year where a Stanley Cup was a distinct possibility - at the very least, the Canucks could have lost millions of dollars from a second round playoff match up.
Most importantly though, Steve Moore has suffered the most, unable to move on with his life. This is a terrible situation all around with many people impacted. It's time to stop believing that this story is as simple as good guy vs. bad guy. Poor officiating/management and the league's culture/unwritten code is really to blame. The participants could be Bertuzzi and Moore, or Gillies and Tangradi, or Matt Martin, or Matt Cooke, or any NHLer following 'the code'.