Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tales from the NHL probation office

Big Bert is back on blades and the reaction is mixed from yesterday's announcement.

The NHL re-instated Vancouver Canuck, Todd Bertuzzi on Monday afternoon just as the Wayne Gretzky Revival Hour was about to get under way. A delightful bit of sleight of hand to deflect away from a controversial decision.

Bertuzzi will return to an NHL line up without further punishment for his misdeeds in the Steve Moore affair, in effect ending a long running situation that seemed to have no end in sight. The announcement, a lengthy little edict effectively puts Bert on notice that any further mis-adventures will result in his banishment from the game. Like the crew at Animal House he's now on double secret probation, with Dean Bettman keeping an eye on the wayward crew at GM Place. The probation aspect of the punishment has been mocked by a number of journalists in the last 24 hours as a symbolic piece of fluff with no teeth. Harsher terms have been used to greet the news of the re-instatement, with many sentiments suggesting that the NHL missed a chance to clamp down on violence for good.

The return of Big Bert in Vancouver has provided enough grist for the sports mill to last a month, the two sports stations carried the news and reaction non stop on Monday, the papers filled with details and possibilities, the TV sports anchors dusting off their old video of the infamous night and replaying it time and time again over the last 24 hours.

Bertuzzi himself had a reply posted on the Canucks website and counterweight to the NHL's posted notice on their official website. Yet to be heard are the lawyers for Steve Moore, who no doubt will have their concerns and warnings about the perceived miscarriage of justice regarding their client. In fact short hours before the Bertuzzi announcement, one of Steve Moores' lawyers Tim Danson was on a Vancouver sports program, advising that the NHL should wait for more of the battery of tests on Moore to be released before making a decision. With the decision made, there was little in the way of comment from the Moore camp, though perhaps that could have something to do with the civil case presently working its way through the system.

While that plays out in the courts, the game will now be played on the ice. The first step for the re-instated Bertuzzi is an invitation to the Team Canada camp later this month. After that it's on the Canucks training camp, though there have been rumours that with Bertuzzi now allowed to play he may be a more marketable asset. With the heat still expected to be on him during any Western games against the Avalanche, a team the Canucks will play more often with the rivalry intemsive schedule, some suggest that the Canucks may wish to trade Bertuzzi away to and Eastern team. One wild rumor making the rounds of the gabfest shows these last few days has been a Bertuzzi to Boston trade for Joe Thornton. An interesting idea, though the last time the Bruins and Canucks got together for a trade things went decidedly Bostonian, as Cam Neely went on to super stardom in Boston. The idea of sending a power forward of Bertuzzi's caliber off to the B's probably won't find many converts in the Canuck offices this time around.

For the Canucks the decision finally allows them to get back to planning their team for the next season, with the sword of Damocles hanging over the Bertuzzi situation day in and day out, the Canucks couldn't really get a handle on their new salary cap guidelines, nor could they know which places needed quick improvement. Now they at least can begin to work out the roster spaces with a bit of certainty, the discussion on the merits of the "probation" decision will continue on no doubt for a while yet, but at least the NHL finally made a decision on the issue, something that had eluded them for 17 months.

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