Can Todd Bertuzzi Ever Be Forgiven?

 

Todd Bertuzzi Red Wings

(Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)

 

In activities where people can suffer, conversations about ethics will follow.  After all, suffering is what ethics is really about.

Yes, I know, people die while walking their dogs, sleeping in their beds and during other “safe” activities.  Dogs are usually loyal companions but can snap back to their wolfish ways in an instant, and the emergence of sinkholes into popular awareness makes sleeping slightly more dangerous, as well.

But hockey is different.  Playing hockey requires participants to assume frequent violence.  So please, let’s avoid burdening the chat with the obvious point that everything on the planet provides some risk.

While Steve Moore, former member of the Colorado Avalanche, knew hockey was dangerous when he started playing it, he did not expect Todd Bertuzzi, former member of the Vancouver Canucks, to attack him the way he did on March 8, 2004.

 

This incident took place nearly ten years ago and the trial determining who is financially responsible will finally begin September of next year.

While questions regarding punitive damages are decided by the legal system, ethical questions, like whether or not Bertuzzi can be forgiven, are more open for discussion.

Since it is Moore, not us, who was wronged by Bertuzzi, it is Moore who must decide if “Big Bert” deserves forgiveness or not.  The trial is moving forward, so Moore must not feel like burying the hatchet just yet.

bertuzzi-moore

 

“I forgive you for hurting that person, even though I have nothing to do with this situation,” is something zealots claiming to have super-powers tend to say (there are quite a few to choose from.)  I am not a zealot claiming to have super-powers (just a regular zealot), so I will not say this.

But unlike, say, the endlessly guilty Matt Cooke, Todd Bertuzzi really does seem to be a changed man.  He seldom engages in physical play during games, goes about his job rather quietly, and has found fantastic chemistry with Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk.  Bertuzzi’s health problems are undoubtedly a factor in his post-attack career but a certifiable madman, something a trial for a hit during a hockey game implies the defendant could be, will not let a sore back stop him from destroying more human beings.  A pro-Bertuzzi advocate could point to all of this improved behavior with confidence.

But again, Moore is the one who can’t play hockey anymore.  Hockey is a violent sport but smashing someone in the side of the head, from behind, before falling on top of them, is a unique violation, to put it mildly.  We cannot say Bertuzzi did not do this.

Optimistic Marc Crawford.(photo by/Wikipedia)

Optimistic Marc Crawford.(photo by/Wikipedia)

 

“Why did this happen?” is a good question to ask when evaluating acts of violence.

Bertuzzi attacked Moore because Bertuzzi, along with the rest of the Canucks, thought Moore intentionally targeted Markus Naslund, Vancouver’s captain, for a head-shot during a previous game. At the time of the incident, Naslund was in the midst of a superstar career.  He was a gentle, soft-spoken player and was a good friend of Bertuzzi’s in addition to being a sensational line mate.

Now, dishing out retribution for harming a teammate is a platitude few take issue with, but accepted platitudes get trickier when applied to actual incidents.  What makes things trickier still is when the retribution crosses a line.

Bertuzzi intended to hurt Steve Moore, but he did not intend to end his career.  In that sense, the incident was accidental.  This kind of accidental-but-intentional violence happens all the time.

The pilots of the Enola Gay intended to drop the atomic bomb, but didn’t want to kill so many civilians.

Jack Kevorkian intended to kill some of his patients, but not to hurt them.

The idea that someone can intentionally harm a defenseless or unaware person, but not be evil himself, points to an ethical grey area.  It’s difficult for those who have been victimized by such people to admit this grey area exists, but it obviously does.  Bertuzzi is guilty but not a villain.

Bertuzzi

Other factors complicate the issue further.

What if we discovered something odious about Steve Moore’s off-ice life?  What if he was an abusive husband, a racist, or, possibly even, a cop?  We would immediately feel less sympathy for Moore and more for Bertuzzi if this were the case, but it would not change what happened on the ice.  And whether or not Bertuzzi was “following orders” given to him by ex-coach Marc Crawford remains unclear.

The deal-breaker seems to be that the attack came from behind.

“Hitting from behind is cowardly and unforgivable” is a fundamental message during youth hockey indoctrination, and the penalties for it become more severe the older a player gets.  Violent acts are plentiful during hockey games and most are punished with two or less minutes spent in the penalty box.  At the same time, many of these violent acts could potentially end a player’s career at any moment.  Bertuzzi’s disregard of the no-hitting-from-behind rule, along with his disregard for Moore, makes the incident a textbook example of confusing nastiness.

Detroit fans will forever remember fondly the Wings-Avs brawl of the 1996-1997 season, but was the scrap where Claude Lemieux “got what he deserved that much different than the Bertuzzi-Moore incident?

The punch that Darren McCarty landed into the face of Claude Lemieux could have easily resulted in a knockout, or a broken neck or a broken something.  And the attack did not stop there. McCarty dragged Lemieux around the ice and continued the beating until Lemieux’s face was covered in blood.  This happened because Lemieux hit Kris Draper, McCarty’s friend and line mate, from behind and into the boards causing serious damage to the structure of Draper’s face.  Like Bertuzzi, McCarty took revenge.

But there are, of course, differences between these incidents: (a) no one was permanently injured during the Wings-Avs brawl and (b) one attack began face-to-face and the other did not.

So the result of an attack and the physics of its origins makes one incident an assault and another a brawl.  Skate up to someone and hit them in the face, and you are a hero.  Skate behind someone and hit them in the head, and you are a felon.

Darren McCarty with Adrian Dater of the Denver Post

McCarty with Adrian Dater at Detroit’s American Jewelry and Loan in November 2011 (Adrian Dater, Denver Post)

Asking questions is easier than answering them.  The Todd Bertuzzi of 2013 is a very different man than the Todd Bertuzzi of 2004.  Regardless of the trial’s outcome, Bertuzzi has already been paying, as has the Bertuzzi family, for what the enormous forward did ten years ago.  The idea that legal punishment is the only way to “pay” for a crime is a flawed one.

Remorse.  Shame. Nightmares.  Guilt.  Bertuzzi has presumably experienced all of these in ways most people never will.  He has to explain the incident to his children.  To see looks of confusion on the little faces of people he is responsible for shaping into respectable adults.  That can’t be pleasant.

This is little consolation to Steve Moore and his family, but can give spectators like ourselves some perspective on the issue if we care to think about its ethical, and unethical, character.

Ian on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ianflemingdunha

Ian Dunham
I began my career in hockey as a pre-scout for Cranbrook Kingswood Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I have been writing about the NHL for multiple platforms since the 2007-2008 season.
Ian Dunham

12 Comments

  1. Moore got what he deserved. That was a serious head shot. Naslund was never the same player after that hit, and Moore was a bum at best. What kind of chicken sht delivers a head shot like that and just skates away not answering the bell? ALL hockey players (especially at the NHL level) know if you hit a start player like that, that there is a price to pay. I love how Mcsorley can two handed slash Brashear in the head (and still get an analyst’s job) with a weapon, but whine because that weasel took a shot in the head. He was skating away like a coward and took one. Some people who are still whining about that ONE punch, need to take their heads out of the behind.

  2. Captain Obvious says:

    There’s no excuse for what Bertuzzi did, period. He deliberately tried to injure someone(doesn’t matter who it was) in a predatory “play” from behind and could have killed him. He ended a man’s career and yet he is still allowed to play. And to top that off this scumbag is playing for my beloved Detroit Red Wings. That pisses me off.

    How this guy can still have fans is beyond me.

    • Ended his career…that;’s a big step…he never had a career. He was a below average player that was TRYING to hang onto a careers by doing Tony Granato’s dirty work for him. Here’s part of the recent interview with Scott Parker who knows the players involved and tell it like it is. It was the piling on that did the damage.


      MHH: Hey, I still ‘boo’ every time Bertuzzi touches the puck. Even when I’m at home watching on TV, I boo.

      SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, yeah. He’s a good man. He, he is. I mean, he did get dealt some bad cards, and the thing is, [Steve Moore] always thought he was better than everybody else. He went to Harvard, you know what, blow me. College grad. I never went to college, but I can kick your ass. I’ll bring you right down to my IQ level if you want. I’ll hit you about four times in the skull, that’ll bring you right down. So, you know, Todd just, it was one of those games. Markus Naslund, the captain of the Canucks, gets taken out. It was a little sketchy what happened, but, hey. And then Moore, he fought, I think Cooke came after him and then he fought, which wasn’t really a fight. Todd wasn’t really thrilled with it, they were losing, I think it was 8 to 1 in their home barn.

      You don’t do that in Canada. You talk about a sport that they love? You talk about Europeans and soccer? That’s hockey in Canada. So it’s the same way, if you don’t respond up there, they will eat you alive.

      And Todd, he might have gone overboard, and what’s crazy is, even talking to him after the fact and talking to Moe, Morris and other boys that were in that, that happened, I watched that tape about a hundred times, and just the way Todd hit him, and he actually grabbed him to soften his blow when he went down, and what happened was when Moe landed on him, he actually hit the back of his neck and it actually popped up. You know, just the way Todd was holding him.”

      • Fred where did you read the interview you just quoted? That’s very interesting.

        • There were a series of inteviews and subsequent articles I believe in a Colorado publication, the time spent was mainly on the effects of concussions which were frightingly frank.

          MHH: How many concussions did you have and what kind of physical problems are you still dealing with from your days as an enforcer?

          SCOTT PARKER: Oh, memory loss, equilibrium issues, I couldn’t really ride my Harleys for about three years after my last concussion. I almost went over on it, and I put it away.

          MHH: You okay now on the bikes?

          SCOTT PARKER: Not bad. I’ll go rip around from time to time, but I still have good days and bad days. And I can generally tell when they’re coming on. But at points, I had seizures. It’s amazing what happens when you wake up on the ground and people are looking at you, and you just feel like a dumbass. You feel really weak and it sucks, but that’s unfortunately one of the drawbacks, one of the outcomes. That’s what happens when you get multiple blows to the head. I think I’ve had probably over 20 concussions in my lifetime.

          MHH: You said earlier your hands have trouble?

          SCOTT PARKER: Oh God, yeah, like even now, it’s a little brisk out, but my hands—- I feel like wolverine, like I could bash anything with ‘em right now, but they’re arthritic as hell. I’m only 34, so I can’t imagine when I’m 50. I’m gonna be an angry *******. [jokingly shakes his fists] GODDAMNED KIDS!!

          MHH: Do you think taking guys off the ice and evaluating them in-game, do you think it’s gonna help with the concussion problems?

          SCOTT PARKER: I think that was actually introduced because of me. That was actually because of what happened to me. I think in a sense it is good, because what got me was the super bright lights, the stimulation, and when you actually receive a blow to the head, your receptors and the way you perceive, can do numbers to you. I talked to numerous guys after games that have had concussions- this was before [navigation] and a lot of that stuff – and they got lost going home. They didn’t know how to get home. They had to call their wife to come get them so they could follow them home. It’s really scary what can happen. ‘Cause it doesn’t really happen almost right away. Because you can evaluate, and a lot of things they ask you is like, what’s our license plate number, what’s this and what’s that.

          They ask you all the generic stuff. But from the research they’ve done, the instant that it happens you might not be aware of the longevity of what’s gonna happen, because you’re basically losing brain cells, and you’re losing memories. Your brain gets racked against your skull and you’re getting a slight bruise. It can be the left side, it can be the right side, whatever receptors you have, left side math or right side English, and it’s amazing how guys slur [their speech] and just everything else that would happen, but it wouldn’t happen immediately. It would take that little when they’re down, because you don’t want the stimulation, you don’t want the bright lights. But I think it’s not a bad thing to make sure and evaluate.

          With anything: MCL or a leg, I mean, they’re not just gonna do it on the bench. Sometimes they take you back and the doctor will come down and make sure tendons and everything are good. And it’s the same thing with a head. If it takes that little bit for the person to gain, or regain, their composure rather than being thrown right back out there and possibly getting really hurt or hurting somebody else in the process. It’s almost like, on the road you don’t want somebody drunk driving. You don’t want somebody on the ice that’s out of it. I mean, even my last game, I got elbowed in the corner by Daley off of the uh, uh, the–

          MHH: Trevor Daley?

          SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, it was Daley off of Dallas. It was an exhibition game. I went into the corner and he was a leftie, so he was like this (turned away from Parker) and he spun like this (into Parker, elbow up) to go rip the puck, and at that point I was coming in like this (low) to go poke it away. And his elbow catches me right in the chin.

          Honestly, the only reason I know is from watching the video and from what my wife tells me. And basically I just stopped right there. I just kind of stood there, looked around a little bit, started skating towards the goalie a little bit. I was looking around. I was just ****** out of my feet. Just ****** out of it. And the only thing that brought me to was the ref whistle. I heard that and it was like the Rocky fights you see where they go, ding, ding, ding, and he’s in the mix right away – it was like that. It was like I had gotten thrown right into a tunnel and into a mix of 11 guys that I thought, oh my God, it was life or death.

          And I just went ****** crazy, and basically started fighting the whole Dallas team behind the net. And the only thing I remember is looking over and seeing my two teammates looking at me with their eyes like this [wide open]. And I was just swinging, swinging away. And that’s all. That was it. I was done after that.

          MHH: I remember the Avs tried to send you down to Lake Erie after that.

          SCOTT PARKER: Yeah.

          MHH: But you didn’t report because you were just done, because of the concussion?

          SCOTT PARKER: I was basically done. I didn’t really talk to my agent at the time – that’s another rule that came into play after me too. Rules, rules. Basically you have 72 hours, when you go on the IR, your agent has to be notified. So when you go on the Injured Reserve, they can possibly call somebody up. If you’re injured, your agent has to be notified. But when you actually come off the IR now, your agent has to be notified. You have 72 hours to get re-evaluated by a second, outside doctor, instead of somebody by the team ‘cause, unfortunately with the teams, I mean, they want to win. They want to keep you there, they want….

          MHH: It’s a business.

          SCOTT PARKER: It’s a business. They want you to play, so, you know: “can he go?” “Yeah, he can go.” “Okay.”. So, if you get a second opinion from an outside source that could possibly be a little more unbiased, then they actually have that option within 72 hours, and then you can possibly go back on the IR if the results come back that you’re not healthy enough to go play.

          MHH: Is that what you did?

          SCOTT PARKER: Well it was 75 hours. The 72 hours was in the play, but now the agent has to be notified so they have that option to go to a second source: “oh no, I talked to you yesterday and you were talking gibberish so you ain’t going nowhere, you’re gonna see this guy, and we’re gonna figure out what’s going on”. Rather than being stuck out in the loop and possibly going back up or getting back on the roster and getting sent down. I didn’t mind going to Lake Erie.

          But you can ask my wife, that’s back in the time when I was having my seizures and all that stuff happened after that game against Dallas in exhibition. I was not myself. If I would have taken another bad blow it could have killed me. That’s what my neurologist said. I have a bruised brain stem. And basically that’s what killed Dale Earnhardt. He hit the wall so hard that it severed his brain stem. And basically with a bruised brain stem, it never re-heals. Once it bruises, you never regain. So whatever is on the memory of that brain stem, you lose. Which for me is part of my memory and my speech – sometimes I’ll slur.

          MHH: So did that make it easier to hang ‘em up? Because you knew physically you had to?

          SCOTT PARKER: Definitely. Physically, I just wasn’t there. Mentally? Not even close. I could have punched things, but taking a blow or just mentally trying to get there [to the rink], trying to drive a vehicle, trying to do anything motorized, it was like I said, the Harleys, my equilibrium, just falling over, having seizures and just not being myself. It’s scary ‘cause you’re so used to one thing and having so much control, but then when you find yourself not having that control anymore…..it makes you wary.

    • Yeah, and Moore didn’t “deliberately” try and take off Naslunds head? : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhnptY29ZZM I have no idea where clueless people can say a guy skating and elbowing another player in motion, is less harmful than a punch in the head? How can you say Bert “deliberately” meant to break his neck? Like he knew that cupcake was going to drop from a hard slap. Like it was mentioned below, his neck was broken from the ensuing dog pile after the hit.

  3. Might you have Todd’s current email?

    Many thanx,
    Don

  4. “, he did not expect Todd Bertuzzi, former member of the Vancouver Canucks, to attack him the way he did on March 8, 2004″

    Then he’s dumb. Make a stupid play like that on a super star player and he has to know it’s coming. The week before he drove Martin St Louise head first into the boards. This young man was a disaster waiting to happen. He had limited skills but was willing to do what ever he needed to do to “earn” a spot in the NHL. It back fired big time. Needles to say he was coached by Tony ( axeman ) Granato egging him on. What a waste. After all these years it is at last going to court who will try and determine if it was Bertuzzi’s punch or the pile of players jumping on the guy as he lay on the ice….good luck to the judge..

    And just in order to clear up the broken neck theory

    “Moore had hairline fractures to the transverse processes. These are bones that protrude out from the bones collaring the spinal column and attached to the muscle. People get little nicks to these bones all the time. You fall on your back in any sport and you are likely to get the kind of minor injuries that Moore recieved. In football you play with such injuries all the time. You could say right now that Willie Mitchell has a broken back because he has some fractures in these bones. The actual bones injuries were trivial and this will become evident during the court case.”

    • Fred, I gotcha. I agree that Moore was a headhunter and, speaking as someone who grew up playing hockey, definitely should have expected some kind of retribution. It’s a rule of life on the ice. BUT, a hit from behind is a hit from behind, and Bert managed to make a hit from behind worse than it already is. I’m a Detroit fan. I grew up in the area and I like what Bertuzzi has brought to the Wings, but I’m not ready to say that Moore deserved what he got.

      • You mention the hit from behind Bertuzzi on Moore. In todays game the “hit from behind” by Moore on St Louis would have had him suspended and none of this would have happened but to condem Bertuzzi for a hit from behind and yet make no reference to the same hit from behind made by Moore is….shall we say a tad hypocritical…just a bit.

        The sad thing is like so many other concussed players Naslund was never the same and eventually retired while still under contract to the Rangers….similar to Kariya….after his concussion now they were great players…no one talks much about them The Media has concentrated every ones sympathy on Moore and we …just like sheep follow along

        • Well the hit on St. Louis is relevant, but not as relevant to the discussion as the hit on Naslund, which I, of course, mentioned. But arguments can always be made stronger and mentioning the St. Louis hit would add some context. Thanks for doing that.

          I take your point and agree that Moore was a liability. The league would be better off without such players. How you go about getting rid of them is another story. I think we can find a better solution than the one Bertuzzi offered.

  5. Forgiveness is the key here. I suspect that neither man has forgiven the other and himself. So both have endured ten long years of revenge thinking, remorse and self hate. End it.

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