Retribution part of hockey long before Todd Bertuzzi attacked Steve Moore

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Dec 19, 2007
The Hockey News

Retribution part of hockey long before Todd Bertuzzi attacked Steve Moore

The Canadian Press
By: The Canadian Press
Dec 19, 2007

Court documents from the Steve Moore civil suit against Todd Bertuzzi provide a glimpse inside an NHL dressing room, but players scoff at any suggestion it reveals an unwritten code of retaliation or frontier justice.

"There is no code," Vancouver Canucks forward Trevor Linden, a 20-year NHL veteran and former president of the NHL Players' Association, said Wednesday.

"There is no sign language. There is none of that. That's someone's dream."

The documents, made public Tuesday, contained Bertuzzi's allegation that former Canucks coach Marc Crawford pointed to Moore's name on a roster board in the dressing room between the second and third periods of March 8 game between Vancouver and Colorado and said the former Avalanche forward, "must pay the price."

"I think during the course of a game if someone goes after our star player, usually . . . the game gets a little bit more physical," Bertuzzi said during his testimony. "I don't think it, it's not written in stone what has to happen.

"I think it's just generally the way the game was going for the last, whatever, 50, 60 years."

While players say the code doesn't exist, they don't deny that protecting teammates and standing up for yourself are as much a part of hockey as pucks and sticks.

In a Feb. 16, 2004 game, Moore delivered a hit to Markus Naslund that resulted in the Canucks captain suffering a concussion.

In his testimony Bertuzzi said that during that March 8 game, with the Canucks losing badly late in the third period, he challenged Moore to fight.

When Moore refused, Bertuzzi followed him down the ice, grabbed hold of his jersey, punched him on the side of the head from behind, then fell on him on the ice. Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a concussion and facial cuts.

Moore has not played hockey since the incident.

The comments are from transcripts of his testimony during the discovery phase of Moore's lawsuit against Orca Bay Hockey, the former parent company of the Canucks, and Bertuzzi himself. Discovery interviews are routinely conducted before a case goes to trial.

The allegations in the testimony have not been proven in court.

The discovery transcripts are part of Moore's motion seeking to amend his statement of claim from $15 million to $38 million.

Ross Bernstein, author of "The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL," said the hit on Naslund was like a red flag.

"When you take out a guy wearing the C for a team north of the border, that's like whacking a made guy in the mob," said Bernstein. "You just don't do it."

Bernstein said the NHL hasn't done enough to discourage the eye-for-an-eye mentality in the league.

"It's just a matter of time before someone dies," he said.

Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, said the league has passed rules to eliminate the code.

"The game has changed dramatically since when I played in the 1970s and 80s," he said. "We've changed a lot of rules. You're not allowed to come off the bench and fight.

"That was when the code was in full effect. If something happened, your tough guy came flying off the bench."

Linden couldn't talk specifically about the Moore incident. But he shook his head when asked if he's ever seen a coach tell a player to go after someone on the opposing team.

"No," he said. "In 20 years I've never seen or head a coach do that."

The Canucks said in a statement released earlier this month that at no time did the "organization or any of its management and employees, including former coach Mr. Crawford, encourage or promote " the Bertuzzi-Moore incident.

Campbell said if a coach did order an attack on another player the league would hear about it.

"With the movement of players as much as we do have today, if you think a coach is participating in that, it's going to get out in hurry that he said this or he said that," said Campbell.

"I think the coaches are a lot smarter. They can't do those kinds of things."

Kypreos said a coach wouldn't need to say anything.

"There's no doubt the players felt they needed retribution for a suspect hit on their captain," he said. "They didn't need Marc Crawford to come out and point his finger to a chalk board.

"They know it all ready because that's the way the game has been played for the last 100 years."

Changing the hockey mentality would require a major shakeup, Kypreos said.

"It really goes to the structure of the game and the way it's played," he said. "To start changing a players' believes or philosophies, you've got to almost start changing the rules and regulations of the game.

"That's when you will see some of this stuff disappear."

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Retribution part of hockey long before Todd Bertuzzi attacked Steve Moore