Bertuzzi hit claim a PR nightmare; union changes tune
Posted: Thursday December 6, 2007 1:39PM; Updated: Thursday December 6, 2007 2:25PM
Reports that then-Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford sent Todd Bertuzzi out on the ice to "get" Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore in a game on March 8, 2004 have yet to be proven in court, but just the fact that they have surfaced will confirm what many have long believed.
Whispers from players who were on the bench when Bertuzzi went out and hit Moore from behind, supposedly as revenge for a hit Moore made on Bertuzzi's teammate Markus Naslund in a previous game, have been circulating for years.
According to a document filed in the upcoming court case and obtained by CBC News in Canada, Bertuzzi made the charge against Crawford in a pre-trial deposition. The report does not state that Crawford singled out Bertuzzi by name -- Crawford allegedly said that Moore had to "pay the price" -- but the fact that Bertuzzi made the charge will put Crawford and the NHL on trial. That's surely something that the NHL fears and the Moore camp has been trying to do it since the incident happened.
The impact of that charge will be a problem for the NHL, which has stated repeatedly that these types of violent actions are "not part of the game." That insistence is likely to be challenged during the trial, especially given the fact that the league warned Crawford and the Canucks against retaliation prior to the incident and fined the team $250,000 afterward, a clear indication that the NHL felt that Crawford and his organization were at least partially at fault.
That's a key issue in the case. Bertuzzi has filed a claim asking that if damages are awarded to Moore, the Canucks should pay them. The Canucks have filed a similar claim against Bertuzzi, who is now a winger for the Ducks, a team managed by Brian Burke who was Vancouver's GM at the time of the attack. The Canucks, of course, are arguing that Bertuzzi should pay the damages.
A secondary problem for the Canucks is that current GM Dave Nonis, under oath, made a statement that appears to corroborate Bertuzzi's claim about Crawford ordering a hit on Moore. Nonis was the assistant GM of the Canucks at the time of the attack. If his statement is true, it would appear to contradict the sworn testimony of several Canucks who were interviewed by police shortly after the incident and claimed that nothing was said during the between-periods intermission in question.
NHLPA joins the fray
In light of the Bertuzzi-Moore developments, it should come as no surprise that NHL bosses have taken a dim view of the Philadelphia Flyers and their Back to the Future approach to old-time hockey. When you pick up five player suspensions totaling 52 games in just 25 outings, as the reconstituted Broad Street Bullies have done, people at the highest levels of the game are bound to notice.
What comes as a shock to long-time observers, however, is that the NHL Players' Association now wants to get involved, and not necessarily to fight off the suspensions handed down by Colin Campbell, the NHL's Director of Hockey Operations, as well as the perceived threat of additional bans that were hinted at by Commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly.