Friday, March 28, 2008

So who ordered the code red?

The plot thickens in the seemingly endless Steve Moore/Todd Bertuzzi legal proceedings, today's developments find the Bertuzzi camp bringing former Canucks coach Marc Crawford into the big legal tent.

Bertuzzi's legal team filed papers on March 3rd in Ontario Superior Court blaming Marc Crawford for encouraging Canuck players to "make Moore pay the price", following those now infamous words, Bertuzzi struck Moore down from behind, resulting in injuries that have ended Moore's career and left him still suffering the after affects over four years later.

The introduction of Crawford into the mix, according to legal observers is most likely designed to "muddy the legal waters a bit", providing a chance to share a bit of blame around the case.

It also comes after the original statement of claim for 22 million dollars was increased to 38 million dollars earlier this year, after Crawford's testimony in court documents became public knowledge. In that testimony, Crawford claimed he yelled at Bettuzzi to get off the ice, a version of the nights events that was challenged by Bertuzzi's lawyers.

If the move by the Bertuzzi camp proves to be successful, then Crawford could be on the hook for millions of dollars in damages on his own.

Legal observers suggest that it's unlikely to be a successful ploy on the side of Bertuzzi's lawyers, but may result in a claw back of that skyrocketing dollar figure for damages. Perhaps leading to an out of court settlement to finally bring some resolution to the long running episode of hockey's history.

Curiously silent over the years in this has been the NHL, which while reportedly working behind the scenes to get the two sides to a settlement, has had little success and even less of a public comment to make.

Most importantly for the NHL there has been a singular lack of leadership from the league on the issue in effect, seeming to abandon an injured player to the fate of the courts while distancing itself from actions that took place in its theatre of operations.
What you do seem to get from the NHL is just a hope, a wish or a dream that this whole mess might go away, but yet here we are again. Four years later and with the playoffs on the horizon again, a lot of the talk will be focused on a courtroom in Ontario and who is responsible for one of the most disturbing acts of violence on the ice in NHL history.

What may now come out if the Crawford aspect of the proceedings end up in a court room will be the need to define such long cherished hockey terms as; the honour of the game and the always quoted but seldom defined "code" that the players live by.

An even more interesting twist might be if Crawford introduces the then General Manager of the Canucks into the talking points presentation and any eventual courtroom drama.
After all, in every organization there is a chain of command, one wonders if the Canucks had such a line in place. If Crawford feels like he's going to be hung out to dry for the league, he may very well decide to spread some of the pain across the board from the Canucks and their past management right up to the "code of conduct" both official and unofficial that the league seems to operate under.

Should it come to that, it will be interesting to see who eventually plays Colonel Jessup in this long running drama and whether hockey fans are prepared to handle the truth..

Now, considering his stature and larger than life presence in the NHL, Brian Burke (the once and now current GM for Bertuzzi) would be a man worthy of a comparison to Jessup, at least as far as his well documented bluster might go.

Canwest News--Bertuzzi files court action against former coach
Detroit Free Press--Ex-Wing Bertuzzi sues former coach Crawford over Steve Moore incident
Toronto Star--Bertuzzi files suit against former coach Crawford
Globe and Mail--Bertuzzi sues Crawford
CBC--Todd Bertuzzi brings ex-coach Crawford into Moore lawsuit
Denver Post--Now, Bertuzzi blindsides Crawford

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