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Ed. Note/Update: Terri Frei posted a follow-up blog to his column in which he mentions that the Avs did a lot for the Moore family following the attack. I did not criticize the Avs much in this column, but there is a slight criticism below that was written before knowing this. Still the avs should have a public show of support for Moore, which would go a long ways to healing the Avs fans' wounds.
The fifth anniversary of the Bertuzzi incident came and went without hardly being mentioned at all yesterday, much to the delight of the NHL head offices. While the NHL has clearly ordered everyone to move on and act as if the entire incident never happened. Most everyone associated with hockey has dutifully kowtowed to the NHLs wishes, except those pesky whiny Avalanche fans, their columnists and that ungrateful Steve Moore, who just need to move on.
Avs fans are still bitter, angry, and appalled. But at this point Avs fans aren't as bitter at the incident itself, but the aftermath and the entire handling of the situation. Had it been properly handled in the first place I think a certain amount of forgiveness could be achieved.
The NHL is quick to paint itself as a different kind of sports league, one that prides itself on the idea that hockey players are bands-of-brothers battling side-by-side for something noble. But the NHL bailed on one of their players as soon as he became a symbol, and threatened to expose, an ugly side of hockey. A crippled Steve Moore became the NHL's arch nemesis as soon as it became clear that Todd Bertuzzi's tearful apology-press conference wasn't going to be enough to placate the assault victim.
Why should Steve Moore go away? Steve Moore lost the potential at millions of dollars because of a stupid act by a stupid player and the NHL's only worry has been the incredulously self-serving worry about itself as a league. The NHL seems to believe that if they could just get it all to go away everything will be fine again. They punished Bertuzzi just long enough needed to quell most public outrage, and not a shift longer. They were able to use the lockout to distract everyone from the cripple they created. And they welcomed the perpetrator back with open arms, and shunned the victim because he made the ultimate sin in the NHL's eyes. Steve Moore had the audacity to go over the NHLs head and take his case to the courts, and the NHL is so firmly entrenched in the ridiculous code that it has actually (and somewhat successfully) cast Moore as the villain challenging everything good and wholesome about the NHL. It became clear that the NHL doesn't care about the hockey-family nearly as much as they care about the perception of the hockey family.
But the league can't regulate memories, and those memories still empathize with Steve Moore; a young kid with a bright future cut down by an oafish thug. When the NHL made the decision to minimally compensate Steve Moore and kick him out of the fraternity, it shattered the Avs fans' enjoyable myth that the NHL was something different than a cut-throat soulless corporate business. Our innocence was destroyed; appalled by the treatment that the governing body can give their own. Even though the NHL only offers lip service to the band-of-brothers mentality, Avalanche fans, nearly unanimously, had bought into it, at least up until that point. We really believed that the NHL would take care of their players. When the NHL treated the incident with the same cavalier approach to discipline and justice that they continue to employ to this day Avs fans were wounded and upset. As the NHL continued to portray Moore, the maimed kid with broken dreams, as the bad guy in all of this it was, and continues to be, a wound that cuts all Avs fans who watched the kid's face being driving into the ice.
This disregard for the fallen former player continues to make Avs fans angry. We boo Bertuzzi, and many are still mad at him. But when you get down to it more than a few of the boos are directed squarely at the the NHL, the Avalanche organization, and yes the Avs players who seemed to forget about Moore as quickly as possible. At least Todd sat at a press conference and apologized. The NHL continues to pretend they have had no role in the entire situation. And we are bitter about it. We are bitter that a young kid with a promising career was hurt forever. We're bitter that a league, a union and a team that was supposed to protect him opted to protect the criminal and themselves instead. Most of all we're bitter that the NHL is telling us to go back to the way things were before, when their cowardly response is the reason we can't.