I've written many times about how much I love "old-time" hockey (the most recent one here
). The heated rivalries, the bench clearing brawls, gloves and sticks scattered on the ice; it added an exciting element to an adrenaline filled sport. Yea, it sounds barbarian on some level, but most hockey fights are mutual things; two goons standing up for their teammates, trading punches until the ref steps in.
Barbarian, however, is cheap shots. It's sucker punches. It's coming up from behind a player and slugging him full force in the temple and then jumping him when he falls to the ice.
Todd Bertuzzi (Vancouver Canucks), as most of you know by now, did just that the other night. Came up behind Mike Moore of Colorado, punched him, jumped him and fractured Moore's neck.
Apparently, Bertuzzi's sucker punch was in retaliation for a cheapshot Moore laid on Canucks player Markus Naslund on Feb. 16. The old revenge factor.
First, let's address the one thing that most stories about this incident have not addressed:
Bertuzzi must be a complete idiot.
He's an All-Star. 17 goals and 43 so far this season. His team is three points out of first place in the Northwest division of the NHL. He had to know what was at risk when he decided to take fate into his own hands and make sure that Moore got the not-so-instant karma he deserved. It was a stupid, immature move and Bertuzzi's teammates should be pissed at him - who knows how long he'll be suspended for. He may even face some jail time.
Well, let's see what teammate and captian of the Canucks Mark Naslund has to say:
Everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. We all stand behind our teammate and friend, 100 per cent.
Hmm..let's see what went wrong. Well, maybe Moore didn't use his sixth sense to let him know that someone with a clenched fist and a passionate rage was approaching him from behind. Or maybe Bertuzzi's flying fist of rage went completely out of control, took on a mind of its own and swung into Moore's face. Bertuzzi was really just trying to hug him.
Naslund also said:
"He tried to do something he thought was right for his team, to challenge someone," Naslund said. "He wanted to make a point that you don't go out and hit our players.
Right for your team? How is doing something you know will results in penalties and/or a suspension right for your team when you're just heading into the playoff stretch? He could have made the point the way hockey players with balls do; instigate a fight with him. Face to face. Drop your gloves and go.
And what does Bertuzzi's boss have to say?
bq. Vancouver general manager Brian Burke
said Bertuzzi was "too distraught" to attend Tuesday's news conference, but the Canucks right wing tried to contact Moore at the hospital. "That to me shows the sincerity more than any statement that we could issue," Burke said.
Yes, it shows the sincerity of the Canucks management and Bertuzzi's agent in trying to save face as fast as possible.
Bertuzzi gave fighting a bad name. Everyone is going to be up in arms about the brutality of hockey now. The FCC will want to take the NHL off of television. Parents for a Fuzzy Bunny World will picket NHL games. The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy will start a letter writing campaign to get Wayne Gretzky's sponsors to drop him. The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy will hold forums on how to present a kinder, gentler hockey game.
Now comes the million dollar question: As I understand it, the police have already been contacted. Should Bertuzzi be brought up on criminal charges? Does this incident constitute something that should be kept within the confines of the league or should law enforcement play a part in Bertuzzi's punishment?
Personally, I think his teammates should kick the shit out of him. But that's just me.