Bertuzzi-Moore settlement gives unwritten hockey 'code' a pass in court
In this file photo, Colorado Avalanche Steve Moore is taken off the ice by medical staff on a strecher after he was hit by Vancouver Canucks Todd Bertuzzi during the third period of NHL action in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, March 8, 2004. (CP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody)
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, August 21, 2014 10:02AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 21, 2014 11:01AM EDT
Hockey's unofficial fighting "code" dodged a court date this week, after Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore settled a civil lawsuit on Tuesday stemming from Bertuzzi's career-ending revenge hit on Moore a decade ago.
The unwritten hockey code dictates a team's skilled players should not become targets of vicious bodychecks or "cheap" shots. When that does happen, the victim's tougher teammates are expected to retaliate, usually by fighting or attacking the player who delivered the hit.
Moore's $68-million lawsuit alleged Bertuzzi attacked him as retribution for a hit made by Moore on one of the Canucks' star players – a violation of the code. Moore, then of the Colorado Avalanche, alleged that Bertuzzi’s Vancouver Canucks put a bounty on his head as payback for a hit he made against Canucks captain Markus Naslund in a previous game. The suit was scheduled to go to trial Sept. 8, but the two sides came to a confidential agreement to resolve the dispute on Tuesday.
Moore's bounty allegations point directly to the hockey code, and would have called multiple high-profile NHL executives to the witness stand to explain the code if the case had gone to trial. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly had reportedly agreed to testify. Other former Canucks officials were also expected to speak at the trial.
Bertuzzi has accused his former coach, Marc Crawford, of telling players to make Moore "pay the price," while Crawford has accused Bertuzzi of deliberately disobeying his orders in carrying out the attack on Moore.
Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm in the 2005 criminal trial that sprang from the case. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 80 hours of community service.
On the night of the incident, Moore's Avalanche were leading the Canucks by a wide margin. With the game out of reach, multiple Canucks players tried to hit Moore or goad him into a fight on the ice, as can be seen in the video. Moore accepted an invitation to fight earlier in the game, which in most cases would have satisfied the code, but the Canucks kept coming at him. In the third period, after Moore turned down more invitations to fight, Bertuzzi grabbed him from behind and drove him face-first into the ice. Moore suffered three broken vertebrae and a concussion.
Even 10 years after the incident, hockey players appear to be continuing to follow the revenge code that Moore says led to the Bertuzzi attack. Consider these on-ice incidents from the most recent hockey season.
Shawn Thornton sucker-punches Brooks Orpik
A Dec. 7, 2013 game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins saw two concussions and one act of apparent retaliation play out within seconds of each other.
First, Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik struck Bruins forward Loui Eriksson, causing Eriksson to suffer a concussion. Play stopped and the Bruins and Penguins players paused on the ice for a moment, then turned on each other.
The Bruins' Shawn Thornton went after Orpik during the melee and punched him in the head. Orpik suffered a concussion and was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Thornton received a 15-game suspension for the incident.
John Scott near-hit on Phaneuf touches off Leafs-Sabres brawl
This incident didn’t result in any suspensions, but it’s a clear example of hockey’s code at work.
Hulking six-foot-eight Buffalo Sabres enforcer John Scott appeared to try to hit Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf during a November 16, 2013 game, touching off a line brawl between the Leafs and Sabres.
The commentator’s words about 15 seconds into the video speak to how the code works. “Scott just kind of sits in front of the Leafs bench, almost expecting somebody to come over,” he says.
Leafs fighter Frazer McLaren dragged Scott to the ice and fell on top of him moments later.
Ray Emery allows a goal, attacks opposing goalie
Goalie fights are rare, but Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery has been in a few. One such fight happened on Nov. 1, 2013, in a game against the Washington Capitals, when Emery’s Flyers were losing badly.
The Capitals had just scored on Emery to go up 7-0, and shortly after the ensuing faceoff, a brawl broke out. The brawl was in the Flyers end, but Emery skated the length of the ice to attack Caps goalie Braden Holtby. Emery can be seen in the video hammering on Holtby, while Holtby does his best to defend himself.
Emery was assessed 29 minutes in penalties, including a game misconduct, for the incident.
Canucks, Flames brawl off opening faceoff
The Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames engaged in a line brawl off the opening faceoff of a Jan. 18 game, after both coaches iced their toughest players to start the game.
After the incident, then-Canucks coach John Tortorella – who has a history of verbally sparring with Flames coach Bob Hartley – accused Hartley of putting his fighters out to deliberately spark the incident. Tortorella was so enraged by the event that he even tried to get into Flames dressing room between periods, but was held back by Hartley's players.
During the post-game news conference, Tortorella said he iced his toughest lineup because he needed to protect his skilled players from Hartley’s tough guys, whom he didn’t trust. “It shouldn’t be in the game, that stuff. I don’t want it in the game. But I have to protect my team, too,” he said. He added that people who criticize him for it simply don’t know how the game works. “They don’t understand the whole circumstance involved in that type of situation,” he said.
Tortorella was assessed a 15-day suspension for the incident.
With files from the Associated Press