A number of years ago, my brothers and I gathered around the television to watch an OHL playoff game. It was an elimination game between the Belleville Bulls and the Guelph Storm. Normally we don't make it a point to watch OHL playoff games, but our cousin Mark Gowan was between the pipes for the underdog Bulls and having a pretty good series. Unfortunately, the best player on the ice this game wasn't Mark but an opposing forward for the Storm who potted a couple of key goals. That forward was Todd Bertuzzi.
We've all seen that video replay of Bertuzzi's cheap shot against Colorado's Steve Moore at least a dozen time by now, and every time I see it it saddens me. There's no place in hockey for this type of action. I'm all for dropping the gloves face to face but pummeling him from behind face first into the ice and then driving him back into the ice with all of your 245 pounds has nothing to do with this glorious sport. This was obvious retribution for Moore's legal hit two weeks ago that sidelined Canucks' captain Markus Naslund for three games with a concussion. Moore is now in hospital with a concussion, neck fractures and other injuries.
The NHL has suspended Bertuzzi for the remainder of the season, including playoffs. Before he can return for the 2004-05 NHL season, Bertuzzi's "eligibility" will be determined by commissioner Gary Bettman prior to training camp. This penalty was severe but it had to be. A message had to be sent. Marty McSorley was in the twilight of his career and a role player on his team. Bertuzzi is a superstar, a key part of any success the Canucks can expect this season, and expectations were high. The NHL had to show it wasn't going to treat it's stars any differently than pugalists like Bob Probert, McSorely and Tie Domi. The NHL had to draw the line and let every player know that this kind of act is completely unacceptable. I found the punishment to be fair.
I still love the way Bertuzzi plays hockey. He's a menacing power forward who plays a style I respect. What makes me sad is that he should have known better. He should have had the sense to suppress his instinct to punch Moore from behind and he certainly should have had the sense to realize his error and not force his face into the ice a second time.
I fear one day actions like this will result in the death of a player. Hopefully, severe punishments such as this will cause players to pause and check their emotions before taking a cheap shot like this again. In the end, Canuck fans lose out, but we should all be grateful Moore didn't lose his life.
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