It's the name on everyone's lips today, even folks that barely follow the sport know about Todd Bertuzzi, forward of the Vancouver Canucks. The hit on Steve Moore has been replayed over and over again, on Sportsnet, TSN, The Score, Newsworld, CNN, ESPN it's everywhere, looking uglier and uglier with every repetition.
Over the years I have enjoyed the way Todd Bertuzzi played the game, until last night at least. For the most part he's been the integral part of the Canucks success the last few years. When he's on his game, there is no better forward on the ice. He takes the whacks in front of the net, creates his space, makes the perfect pass, scores the highlight goals and makes the hard legal hits. He stands up for his team mates and at times seems to be the only one able to drag his team back into a game, they by all rights should lose. In short he's been the complete deal.
That's why it's so hard to fathom what possibly had gone through his head last night at GM Place. He's quick to frustration and has taken many stupid penalties in the past, but never have we seen him conduct himself in the manner he did last night. The last time he was suspended by the NHL was when he came to the aid of a fellow player, being manhandled in a fight with Minnesota. A move that cost his team his services but at the time was considered the move of a team leader. Last night he was not a team leader, he was a selfish bounty hunter, who not only hurt his team but has damaged the image of his sport.
He will face the NHL justice minister on Wednesday morning, perhaps a Justice of the BC courts later on in the year! Colin Campbell will be in the unenviable position of having to seriously hurt a team's playoff hopes, by banishing it's star player for most likely the rest of the season and a good portion, if not all of the playoffs. That seems to be the consensus, that an example will have to be made. Campbell with an eye on last weeks dust up between Philadelphia and Ottawa, knows that the spotlights are on him from many directions. The League has to gain control of it's players, the lack of respect on the ice of the last season is an issue that has to be addressed. The blatant disregard for the safety and protection of it's players, the eyes that have almost been lost by careless sticks, the mindless fighting for the sake of a fight, the pointless cycle of act and retribution, it's taking it's toll on the game.
The terrible part of all of this, beyond the immedtiate health of Steve Moore in his hospital bed, is the fan losing respect for the game. It's hard to view Todd Bertuzzi in the same light as 24 hours ago, he will eventually play again in the NHL, but the respect from his peers will be diminished greatly. A player that many found entertaining to watch, now will be viewed from a totally different perspective. It's always sad when you find those you respect the most, slip out of your range of admiration.
But we, as fans may be as culpable as anyone else, we cheer the fights, the heavy hits, is it any wonder the next step gets taken. But an uneasy feeling was left with many last night, watching Steve Moore carted off the ice on a stretcher, as pandemonium evolved all around him. With each televised repetition of the hit, the feeling comes back, perhaps it's a sense of guilt, a litte shame for us to live with. We may not have made that infamous hit, but we share in it's repercussions.
The following are two journalists who put the entire situation into much better perspective than I, they're well worth a read. Their thoughts on the state of our game provide some food for thought.