Friday, August 12, 2005

This is a column I wrote several months ago about the Todd Bertuzzi incident and what I felt was the ridiculous positioning of him as a victim in all of this. I'll add my feelings about the recent reinstatement of Bertuzzi afterward.

Here we go again.

The outpouring of love for the wronged Todd Bertuzzi has begun anew in the aftermath of his reinstatement hearing Wednesday. Support poured in from other players.

"I think he should be reinstated," Vancouver Canuck Brendan Morrison. "It's not to take anything away from Steve Moore. Obviously, he suffered a lot, but to start the healing process for Todd, the best thing is to reinstate him."

"I think he paid his debt," said former Canuck Martin Rucinsky. "Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt like that. But [Bertuzzi] is a good hockey player and he belongs on the ice."

So someone explain to me how putting Todd Bertuzzi back on the ice is going to keep other people from getting hurt? Explain to me what part of Bertuzzi stalking, sucker-punching and debilitating another player we should just get past?

This wasn’t two guys in the mailroom having a little punch-up. It wasn’t even your normal square-up-and-throw-down NHL brawl.

This was, as the Crown charged and Bertuzzi admitted, an assault, pure and simple. This was an attack on another player in an attempt to, at the very least, injure him and, at worst, do what Bertuzzi promised after Moore’s legal hit on Marcus Naslund a few weeks earlier – make sure he wouldn’t be playing after March.

Congratulations, Todd, you succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.

What I can’t understand is why both the players and the league don’t understand that allowing Bertuzzi to play again would put both of them in danger.

Let's suppose he is reinstated. Bertuzzi laces 'em up for the Canucks and sometime this season goes loony again and assaults another player. Guess who's going to get sued this time? That's right, the NHL. It will have been Gary Bettman and the league who allowed a person with a proven tendency for violence to return to the ice and hurt someone else.

And why don’t the players grasp that Bertuzzi doesn’t care whether he hurts another player, because he thinks he’s doing his job? Will it take another broken neck before they demand that this menace is banned for good? Will his fellow Canucks finally admit he’s a goon when someone gets killed?

I don't care that Bertuzzi's supposedly a good guy off the ice and a star on it. He's also a danger to anyone else playing the game. Why should other players suffer because he can't control himself?

There should be some forgiveness for Bertuzzi. Everyone deserves a second (or in Todd’s case, a third or fourth) chance. He should be able to try to work past his anger issues and the shame of his crime.

But go ask Steve Moore about forgiveness. He's the one who will most likely never play hockey again. He's the one who has had his livelihood denied him through the stupidity of someone else. He’s the one who will be blackballed by NHL teams simply for asserting his rights by filing a civil lawsuit.

Bertuzzi is not the victim here, and forgiveness has everything to do with allowing him to move on with his life. It has absolutely nothing to do, however, with him ever playing NHL hockey again.

This week, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman chose to bring Bertuzzi back, citing the lockout as part of the suspension. It also kept Bertuzzi from playing in the World Cup, two world championships and the European leagues.

So what? The suspension should only deal with games missed in the NHL, and the pitiful fact is that Bertuzzi missed a grand total of 13 games for committing a criminal act on the ice. That's right, 13, or seven less than Texas Ranger pitcher Kenny Rogers faced for shoving a cameraman.

And the games Bertuzzi missed during the lockout? I'd ask Bettman to produce the scores of any games the Canucks played last season. Because if there weren't any games, it's pretty tough to count them as part of a suspension.

The ugly truth here is that Bettman knows Bertuzzi will be a sideshow at every road game the Canucks play this season. That means added ticket sales, increased visibility for the league and a ToddWatch in the media. When will he go off? When will his first big hit be?

Meanwhile, Steve Moore keeps working to get his strength and equilibrium back, pushing himself to have a chance to return to the livelihood Bertuzzi robbed from him. It might be next week, or it might be never, but the day Moore is cleared by doctors is the day Bertuzzi should return to the NHL.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Canadians as a whole seem to be smitten with IKEA, the furniture store where you get to build a couch using three sticks and an allen wrench. I'm pretty much in love myself, though, because they have a "scratched and dinged" section where you can get stuff for 50-90% off retail. Like I care if my nightstand only has three legs -- it gives me a use for that Dean Koontz book I got as a gift a few years back.

My wife and I invariably spend more money in the damned Swedish food market than we do on household goods, though. Today we dropped $20 on kettle chips, kick-ass chocolate bars at $1CDN each, a bag of the best Swedish fish I've ever had and a box of cinnamon rolls. Plenty of free samples to boot, although I'm not eating anything that says PUREED CRAB and comes in a toothpaste tube. That's wrong.

IKEA also takes its restaurant seriously. The location we visit (Highway 7 and the 400) always has tasty Swedish meatballs, roasted potatoes and lingonberry drink on tap. Throw in some lingonberry sauce and a bowl of fruit salad for $6.99 all in and I'm there. I missed the $1 breakfast this morning, though. Damn it.

In the swirling mass of humanity that is IKEA on Sunday, you're bound to hear some funny shit. This afternoon, a woman passing us said, "You know, the circle thing with the ladybugs on the lid," to her shopping companion. Of course, how silly of me! Who doesn't know what that is?

Embarrassing IKEA Moment No.1 -- The company seems to think customers like 80s and 90s music, and I suspect they're right. We're browsing the kitchen section and Madonna's "Crazy For You" starts. I'm quietly, shamefully singing it under my breath when I turn to my right. There's a ponytailed Filipino guy next to me and we both sing, "I never wanted anyone like this." Our eyes lock briefly, and I doubt either of us will ever be more uncomfortable than we were right then. Horrifying.

If you have an IKEA near you and you've never been, go. Even if you don't buy anything, you'll be amazed at the sheer number of a)useful items they have dirt cheap and b)completely ridiculous items that someone, somewhere must be purchasing. Buy a few $1.50 beer glasses and spend the money you save on Swedish fish.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A friend of mine in the States sent me this New York Times link about the rape and subsequent horrors a Pakistani woman has suffered (you'll need to go read it to understand any of this, but it's worth your time). What follows is my response:

As one of the not-so-nice Canadians, I agree with the decision of the Canadian bureaucrat. Kristof says the couple is safe, although not happy, in London. What reason does the Canadian government have to expedite the transfer? Why should the nice Canadians move any more quickly than the British consulate, who apparently aren't in any great hurry to grant asylum? And if the couple has relatives in Canada who are ready to accept her, why were they not contacted for this column? Why is there nothing from a spokesman of the Pakistani government, not even the standard "Phone calls were not returned" (in fact, I don't even see anything except the word of Shazia and Khalid)?

While I applaud the attention given to the deplorable plight of women in Pakistan and surrounding countries, this is a sloppy, sloppy job by Kristof to point fingers rather than attempt to solve the issue. I will email Joseph Volpe, and I hope Shazia does receive asylum here -- in its due course, through the proper channels -- not because an American columnist thinks Canada should be ignoring the diligence and caution his own government is pushing on the rest of the world.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Well, the deal got done ... and maybe the Blues aren't quite as stupid as I thought. Yes, Chris Pronger should have been dealt before the draft (and before St. Louis painted itself into a cap corner). But for the situation, I like this deal.

The Blues get a couple of young defense projects in Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka. Lynch is a big fella (6-3, 214) who'll bang and scrap (181 and 202 PIMs in his final two years at Red Deer). He had a terrific year with Toronto in the AHL in 2003-04 before sliding back last season, but St. Louis won't be looking to Lynch for scoring. If he can improve his skating, he'll be a good stay-at-home No. 5 or 6.

Woywitka could be terrific in a couple seasons. A former first-round pick of the Flyers (and we know how well they draft), he has good size (6-2, 209) and strength. He's not ticketed as a great offensive threat, but he did score 52 points in 57 games for Red Deer in 2002-03, the year he was named the best defenseman in the WHL. Woywitka is at least a No. 3 or 4 blueliner and could be even better.

To go with the potential, the Blues also get Eric Brewer, a former No. 5 overall pick and a fellow who can step right in to the first defensive pairing. While he's no great shakes offensively, he has a great shot and will use his 6-3, 220-pound body to wipe some guys out. Is he Chris Pronger? No, but Brewer is more than capable and he'll fit in nicely.

Could the Blues have done better? Maybe. I still believe a few teams might have traded a high first-rounder to get Pronger on draft day. Whether that option was explored or not, I don't know, but getting three defensemen -- one very good, one average to good and one possibly very good -- for a great one under duress ain't half bad.

And anyhow, it has to be counted as a great week for the Blues. Someone took Pavol Demitra off their hands.

Monday, August 01, 2005

If you have kids that aren't all edgy and don't dress in "Don't Be An Ass Clown" T-shirts (I actually saw a 14-year-old kid wearing one of these the other day and thought, "Not only is 'assclown' one word, you moron, but I'm guessing your parents are said animal."), take them to see "Sky High". It's a new Disney flick revolving around a high school for the children of superheroes. Of course it's predictable and a little smarmy, but what's so wrong with that? Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston are great, the teen actors are funny and hey, TWO former members of "The Kids in the Hall" got work! Check it out at the link below, which I don't know how to make prettier.