Todd Bertuzzi: The aftermath
If you're tired of reading about Todd Bertuzzi, you can be forgiven. More than enough ink has certainly been spent on the man in the past 24 hours.
17 months is a long time for anyone, and certainly a long time for a hockey player to sit. Especially with something on your mind. Something bad.
When I think of Bertuzzi and 'the incident,' a couple of things come to mind. The blog community has been discussing the merits of his punishment ad nauseam, but for myself, at least in part, the key question is: At what point do you forgive the unforgivable?
In my line of work, and particularly during my nights on the news desk, there are invariably stories where unforgivable actions are met with leniency. Just recently, Karla Homolka received only 12 years in prison for her part in the assault and subsequent killing of three young women. Many rapists in this country receive perplexingly lax sentences. Murderers do, at some point, go free.
This is not to compare what Bertuzzi did to these heinous acts or to flaunt some sort of higher moral authority I deem myself to have. I don't. But, in meting out punishments, it's believed that they'll serve as a deterrent to whoever else finds themselves in a similar situation.
And while you'll hear in the media how the NHL is back to it's old ways, has learned nothing from 'the incident,' and should aspire to 'be more like the other sports,' I don't expect in the wake of the past 17-months that players will view violent on-ice acts the same way. Call me naive.
To those who have coshed Bettman's decision: At some point, Bertuzzi does have to return to the NHL. Whether it is on October 5, or 20 games from then, or two years from then, none of these scenarios will adequately atone for what he did. Bertuzzi can never repair the damage done to Steve Moore or to his own personal reputation.
Putting aside the missed opportunities to play for Team Canada and a lost season of hockey, what he did to Steve Moore will alone damn Bertuzzi for the rest of his days. Think about that. In 2055, should an article be penned about a then 80-year-old Bertuzzi, it'll centre upon 'the incident.' It will, in fact, define the rest of his life.
Todd Bertuzzi reminds me of the tragic protagonist in a classic monster movie. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, his combination of enormous physical size and hockey skills really haven't been seen in hockey. Perhaps with the likes of Eric Lindros, but then again, Bertuzzi is different. It's his demeanor — the nastiness with which he plays the game — that made him a successful NHL superstar for the two seasons he could be branded as such.
Bertuzzi is not a smart man. He has always been a loose cannon on the ice, but, for the most part, it has been the barbaric way in which he plays that game that fans (Canadian ones, at least) have loved.
In absolutely no way or form did he mean to break a man's neck when he 'attacked' Steve Moore. In his mind, Bertuzzi was defending his closest friend, Markus Naslund. He was the monster, who, not knowing his own brutish strength, was destined to play his part in a tragedy.
Be thankful he didn't kill anyone.
You know what, I'm impressed with the way Bertuzzi has handled himself ever since he clobbered Moore. In his simple way, he has shown a maturity not shown in his nine-year NHL career. When it's on display, it has showcased a humble side of Todd, a side he perhaps should have cultivated a little more throughout his life.
Bertuzzi is 30 years old, and, in light of the the past 17 months, he'll return to the game a much different person. Whether or not we'll each individually forgive him, as fans of hockey, is a personal choice. At some point, however, he has to be able to come back, atone for what he's done and make amends the best he can.
He's learned his lesson. Let him play.