Deservedly or not, it was the punch that was heard around the world, especially in America, where the only time hockey makes prime-time is when an act of frontier-justice ultra-violence is caught on camera.
The punch in question was then-Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi on then-Colorado Avalanche Steve Moore. And, with Moore's lawsuit against Bertuzzi finally set to get underway in court, it's interesting to note what a former Avalanche enforcer, Scott Parker, has to say about the incident.
For those with a faulty memory, the sequence of events was put in motion on February 16, 2004. In a game between the Avalanche and the Canucks Moore elbowed then-Canuck captain Markus Naslund in the head, concussing him. Because the NHL has traditionally had no clue as to what causes a flagrant violation of the rules, and what doesn’t, no penalty was called on the play. Naslund would miss three games. As Don Cherry would later argue, he was never the same player again.
Brian Burke, then the general manager of the Canucks, described the play as “a marginal player going after a superstar with a headhunting hit”.
On March 3, 2004, the Canucks and the Avalanche met again, this following then-Canuck Brad May putting a "bounty" on Moore’s head, and Bertuzzi calling him a “piece of shit”. At the end of an 8-2 game Bertuzzi followed Moore up the ice, attempting to engage him in a fight. When Moore refused to drop the gloves, Bertuzzi grabbed his jersey and punched him in the head with a gloved hand. Players from both teams dogpiled on Moore as he hit the ice.
Moore suffered what was reported as three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a grade-three concussion, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves, and facial lacerations. He has not played hockey since, and subsequently launched a lawsuit against Bertuzzi seeking $38 million in damages.
What does all this have to do with what’s happening in 2013? The case finally looks like it is going to get under way in Ontario Superior Court, with jury selection scheduled to start on January 28.
That brings us back to the punch. If you know anything about hockey, there’s a code, and it goes something like "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". Those who know nothing about hockey will never understand that. Or that Bertuzzi wasn’t looking to end Moore’s career when he went looking for revenge.
With the trial about to get underway, it’s interesting to look at the incident from the perspective of Parker, a retired NHL enforcer who spent parts of six seasons with the Avalanche. Check out the second part of this excellent interview from last year where the former heavyweight talks about the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, as well as the idea of being accountable for your actions on the ice, and having to earn a paycheque by fighting. Among other things, he argues: “[Steve Moore] always thought he was better than everybody else. He went to Harvard, you know what, blow me. College grad.”
He goes on to say: “I watched that tape about a hundred times, and just the way Todd hit him, and he actually grabbed him to soften his blow when he went down.” And “it wasn’t vicious, it was just, it was the heat of the moment. It was one of those things where you, you want to do something, but you don’t know if it’s gonna be big, if it’s gonna be small, or how it’s gonna pan out. But you wanna do something”
Noted hockey expert Oprah Winfrey, who couldn’t wait to wade in on "the punch” in the hours that followed it, would no doubt be appalled.