As the 3-year anniversary of what can only be described as "The Bertuzzi Incident" passed I think many people who follow hockey have come back and examined how they felt 3 years ago, as Bertuzzi was driving Moore's seemingly lifeless body into the ice. As any person who even remotely followed hockey at all in the last 4 years should know; Avs fans hate Todd Bertuzzi. HATE him with a passion usually reserved for puppy-kickers, Nazis, and Red Wings (and their fans). He has deserved that hate for the last 3 years because he ended a good-guys career with one of the most despicable cheap shots in the history of sports. So how can this Rocky-Mountain bread, Die-hard Avs fan forgive this man when others can't? Well i guess it's just time to forgive.
First let me say that I have no tolerance for idiot Vancouver fans that use the "He (Moore) was asking for it" defense of Bertuzzi's actions. First of all Moore's hit on Naslund earlier that season wasn't nearly as "Cheap"as a lot of Vancouver fans make it out to be. Every (and I mean EVERY) neutral observer has said that Moore's knee-on-knee check was not intentionally dirty and was probably more of a case of Naslund moving at the last second combined with Moore's lack of NHL speed experience. Opinions vary a little, but the main gist of it is: There was no way Moore was out to intentionally injure Marcus Naslund. So anyone saying anything different is wrong.
Second, even if the hit was borderline dirty (it wasn't) Moore is a smart guy and knew it was perceived that way by Vancouver fans. That's why, in the first period of the Bertuzzi Game, Moore went out and fought a Vancouver guy (even though Moore was not a fighter). This should have ended it, Moore paid his dues for what was all-in-all not a dirty but questionable hit at worst. He stood up and took his punishment like a man. Any Vancouver fan who says differently is acting like a parent who blames everyone else for his 15-year-old son's marijuana and legal problems.
Now that we got that out of the way... The forgiveness. I guess the question I had to ask myself is, at what point has a man paid enough for his sins? Bertuzzi has suffered quite a bit since this incident. He now is labeled, for the rest of his life, as "that guy". The guy who broke a guys neck with his rage. He will never be able to shake that label no matter how hard he tries. He is the violent act to end all on-ice (and on-field for every sport) violent acts. Every violent incident from here on out will be measured against his egregious, yet ultimately fleeting, fit of rage. Some say he deserves it, but that's a lot of weight to put on one man's shoulders. Ask Bill Buckner about the toll one infamous label can have on a person.
Not only that, but Bertuzzi tanked his, and his teammates season, and destroyed what was a very strong title contender. In trying to avenge his teammates he ultimately did them more damage than good. Vancouver limped the rest of the way and never regained it's regular season form. They were a Stanley-Cup contender right up until that moment. He, and his teammates, could have been sipping from The Silver Chalice the closest thing to the holy grail as there can be without it actually being the Holy Grail. Instead Bertuzzi created a cloud that hung over that team until they were unremarkably disposed of in the playoffs. Then the lockout happened and that team was dismantled. Bertuzzi's lone contribution to that team after the incident was to be traded for an elite goalie. That's gotta hurt, one day you are an invaluable piece of a Stanley Cup contender, a team you love so much that you allowed yourself to get blinded with rage over a marginal hit and the next day the only value you have to the team is to leave town.
The previous two punishments have cost him his career too. By being labeled "That Guy" and destroying the team he loved he has cost himself dearly. Monetarily he cost himself over $3M in his salary and bonuses alone by being suspended for the rest of that season and the playoffs. That's a hefty fine for anyone to pay for what boils down to assault and battery (even if you throw on a "with a deadly weapon" onto there). But also the lack of play for a year and a half (he lost a season to the lockout as well) and the subsequent cloud that hangs over his head has hurt his value as a player and hurt any contract negotiations he's done (and will for the rest of his career). He also lost his confidence, and has lost his game. He's clearly not the same player as he was before the incident, and this has hurt him too, professionally for sure, and probably personally as well.
I watch the hit on Moore and still get angry. But I am not longer angry at Bertuzzi.I realize that, and if people are still angry I think it's time to be angry at the league. Be angry that borderline hits aren't punished by the league more. Be angry that incidents like Simon's lumberjack chop still happen. Damien Cox of ESPN.com wrote a good article about what has changed or the NHL since the "Beruzzi Incident" that sums up why fans of the game should be upset at the NHL. I believe the NHL continues to rationalize and in some respects look the other way and rely way to heavily on the "They will police themselves" aspect of the game. I think incidents like Bertuzzi's 3 years ago, and Simon's last week show that they don't do enough to discourage this stuff. (And reactions like Vancouver fans and Islanders fans show that fans of the game are more likely to write it off as an ugly part of Hockey)
So I guess I look at all this and think. When is it time to forgive a man for his crimes? When has he suffered enough consequences? I think the time is now. Yes Moore is still suffering, and probably will never return to the ice. And yes I can sympathize with that. Yes that still makes me incredibly angry, but at some point legitimate anger just turns into childish bitterness. I wouldn't blame Moore for being angry still, and If Moore never forgives him I would find it reasonable and justifiable, but my relationship with Bertuzzi is different than Moore's. It's time for me, as a fan of hockey, to forgive Bertuzzi.
Don't get me wrong I still hate Bertuzzi, but now it's only because he's a Red Wing.
An Outsider's Perspective: Ken Warren
2 days ago