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.


Chris Lykins said...

The idea of any real justice in professional sports is a joke. This just happens to be the latest example.

Rogers misses 13 games for something that would land a lot of people in the county jail if they weren't expected to take the hill every five days — and that can't hold a candle to what Bertuzzi did.

It seems professional athletes have a permanent "Get Out Of Jail" free card. Artest, Bertuzzi, Rogers, Spree — not even counting the hundreds of times athletes end up on the blotter for domestic abuse — and I can only think of one who has had to face the music for his own stupidity.

You gotta figure Rae Carruth is thinking, "Damn — if only I would have caught a few more touchdowns."

ninja said...

fraze, this is garfield from spofi. I could go on and on with you over there, but there really isn't a point. You see an outpouring of love for Bertuzzi, and your point of view is a reaction to that. I see the pendulum swinging too far the other way, and my point of view is a response to that.

with some perspective, our opinions of Bertuzzi are closer than we'll admit, but for the sake of winning the argument, they seem miles apart.

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