While home on fall break, the luxury of being able to access the National Hockey League network allowed me to watch a moment that brought me to the point of almost being physically ill due to frustration.
The Detroit Red Wings took on the Phoenix Coyotes at 9 p.m. Saturday. The Red Wings jumped out to a two-goal lead, which prompted me to turn off the television.
I had no stake in the contest and it had nothing to do with a dislike of either team— only one man. The eventual 5-2 Phoenix victory might have made me feel slightly better about the situation.
Todd Bertuzzi, the Detroit Red Wings’ 38-year-old left winger, crossed over around the back of the net in the offensive zone while pestering a Coyote defenseman attempting to leave his defensive zone.
Bertuzzi stole the puck away right before the defenseman had a chance to exit the zone. The turnover proved costly when Bertuzzi pulled a nifty move and beat the goaltender short side.
The crowd in Joe Louis Arena erupted with the cheers of adoring fans. The forgotten story of Steve Moore echoed in my head as I thought about the youth of Detroit looking up to Bertuzzi and possibly even idolizing him.
Bertuzzi single-handedly ended the NHL career of Steve Moore, the 53rd overall draft choice by the Colorado Avalanche in 1998. Moore made it to the show in 2001 and managed to be a part of the Colorado Avalanche until the incident in 2004.
Moore had hit the league-point-leader at the time, Vancouver left winger Markus Naslund, in a previous game that was viewed as a hit to the head, and caused Naslund a mild concussion. There was bad blood between the two teams and in their next matchup, that bad blood was literally visible on the ice.
Bertuzzi hopped the boards in the third period on March 8, 2004, with the intention of starting a fight with Moore to make amends for what had happened to his leading scorer and captain. Moore refused to drop the mitts with Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi followed Moore out of his defensive zone, grabbed his jersey from behind and punched him in the back of the head. Moore immediately dropped face-first toward the ice shortly before smashing his face off the blue line, and then was consequently dog-piled as a line brawl took place on the ice.
Moore lay motionless on the ice for about 10 minutes before he was taken away on a stretcher. He suffered cuts to his face, a severe concussion and three fractured neck vertebrae.
Moore never returned to the NHL following the 2004 season and actively pursued taking legal action against Bertuzzi, which took place in the court of law in April 2013.
Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to the charge of assault causing bodily harm, and then took a plea bargain for 80 hours of community service and one year of probation. Bertuzzi was reinstated into the NHL on Aug. 8, 2005, by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmam, which allowed him to play for the entire 2005-06 season.
Bertuzzi missed a total of 20 games in his suspension from professional hockey, while Moore missed the rest of his career. I understand that Bertuzzi wanted to stand up for his teammate, but he went about it in the worst way possible.
The incident that took place on March 8, 2004, was the most gutless display of classlessness that I have ever watched take place on the ice, and the fact that Bertuzzi is still allowed to continue his career is baffling. Anyone who has ever played hockey growing up understands the respect of the game, and Bertuzzi must have missed those lessons.
It is an abomination to the sport as a whole to allow a player the opportunity to continue making money and have the chance of taking home Lord Stanley’s Cup when he is directly responsible for another player not having the same opportunity.
It is easy to forget about the past when a player is helping your team win games, but I will never forget what Bertuzzi did to Moore. Moore continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms years after he was attacked, and some form of justice needs to right this wrong.