Tuesday, August 09, 2005

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.

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10 Comments:

At 12:42 AM, August 10, 2005, Anonymous Arcanas said...

Extremely well written, James. I think this is, by far, the best piece I've seen on the Bertuzzi incident. Let us never speak of it again, and let the man play some hockey!

 
At 5:40 AM, August 10, 2005, Blogger J.P. said...

There’s no doubt that Bertuzzi will forever be linked to “the incident,” but with that said, we have to also admit that it’s because it did, indeed, happen. Had he never sucker-punched Moore, we’d never be speaking about it.

Similarly, we could use the Karla Homolka example here, too. Had her and her husband never committed those murders, we wouldn’t associate her with those incidents.

That’s why it’s a bit disconcerting to see a suggestion of never speaking of something again. Pretending that something wrong (anything – not just Bertuzzi’s act) didn’t happen doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

 
At 10:41 AM, August 10, 2005, Blogger Tom L said...

Abnormal,

James is not saying to forget the incident, just to learn from it, forgive it and move on. There is a distinct difference.

Living in the past will do no one, especially Steve Moore, any good whatsoever. So, why do so?

Ta,

 
At 2:19 PM, August 10, 2005, Blogger J.P. said...

For the record, I wasn’t suggesting that James was the one who said that. I was referring to the comment by Arcanas (“Let us never speak of it again…”).

My only concern with that concept is this: How will we learn from such things if we don’t remember what they did in the first place? From Bertuzzi and Marty McSorley to Karla Homolka, we learn from them by attaching the incident to the person and the seriousness to the incident.

Those of us who will remember the actions of these people aren’t living in the past – we’re associating a stigma with the incidents and learning from them.

 
At 3:53 PM, August 17, 2005, Blogger Misfire said...

17 months? His suspension amounts to 20 games, that's it. Nobody played NHL hockey for 14 of these months. The fact that the International Hockey Federation banned Bertuzzi has no bearing (or at least it shouldn't) on Bertuzzi's punishment in the NHL.

When Donald Brashear was hit by Marty McSorley, the Cannucks had a much different reaction than they do now.

"You play the game and you expect to play it hard, but there is no reason for that," Crawford said. "There's no room for that. There's no place in hockey for that. It was a despicable act and I'm sickened by it."

"When things like that happen, you worry about a life," Naslund said. "The slash was bad enough to, I think, kill someone. The league has to make an example. We have to put a stop to things like this."

And don't forget what Bertuzzi himself said after his teammate (at the time) was hit on the side of his head with a stick by Marty McSorley.

"It's disgusting, terrible, absolutely disgusting. That does not need to be in the game of hockey. I've never seen anything like that in my life."

It pains me to see that the Avalanche have picked up Brad May too. What are they thinking, pincking up the guy that put the bounty on Moore's head in the first place? I'm beginning to wish that the lockout had continued....

 
At 12:51 PM, October 28, 2005, Anonymous Marco said...

Never speaking of the incident again ??? Should we all close our eyes and pretend it never hapenned???
How can you say that? What about the dreams of a man that played hockey all his life with the porpose of playing it professionaly and now ... How is Moore's life right now and for the future? What about his family and friends ? The sport professionals are the only ones who can have these behaviours without severe punishment!
Attitudes like that in my country in any sport, are dealed with expulsion for life. I'm from Portugal , so excuse me if any words were badly writen. Thanks. Marco

 
At 1:19 PM, October 21, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He lost $500,000.00 in salary and $350,000.00 in endorsements FOR ONE YEAR. He should be in jail for ATTEMPTED MURDER (since it was premeditated). The NHL coddles these miscreants like the Catholic church rotates pedophiles. Any defence of this violent lughead is ill-founded and only speaks to the intelligence of your average sports fan. Peace.

 
At 11:15 AM, July 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd Bertuzzi should have gone to jail most definitely and he should never be allowed to play in the nhl. steve moore has not yet recieved a personal appology from bertuzzi and moore will most likely never play in the nhl. The fact that bertuzzi is making millions right now sickens me

 
At 7:38 AM, December 06, 2007, Anonymous JakeKatz said...

You are so right about 'lax' punishment on many perpetrators.

However, I just got back from court, my nephew wound up in a fight and split a guys lip open.

He now has a record and will be banned from crossing the Canada/US border once he's put into the computer system. Not so lax?

I wonder how Bertuzzi skirted that little matter? I'm 'sure' Bertuzzi has a record, heck my 20 y/o nephew got one for a punch!

$ = Crown Wins
$$ = Crown Fights to Win
$$$ = Crown sweats, but Wins
$$$$ = The tables turn
etc...

Status quo...

 
At 7:12 PM, April 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People are calling for Bertuzzi to go to Jail? Open your eyes, you misguided fools. One punch to the side of the head doesn't really constitute a prison-worthy felony. Yes, it was terrible lack of judgement, it was outside the rules, it was poorly executed. Bertuzzi kept his gloves on, and punched a player who was unwilling to engage in the fight. Bad form. HOWEVER, he didn't punch him in the back of the head (as some claim) it was the side of the head. The majority of the damage would likely have occurred when players piled ontop of Bertuzzi and Moore.

Someone said it was premeditated. Perhaps Bertuzzi did want to have a scrap... (as seen night after night in teams right across the NHL) to settle the differences. But I would HARDLY think he intended to fracture Moores neck.

Bertuzzi DID apologise to Moore, the League and the fans for his actions.

The man is definitely paying a price, his Hockey has deteriorated since then, and as James mentioned - he is forever linked with 'that incident'.
To live with himself after such an event has occurred is the punishment that nobody but Bert knows.
He has absolutely expressed his regret, and spoken of how he is not 'that person'. To live with the consequences of an action that goes against your nature or your true wishes is not a punishment to take lightly.

 

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