If former NHLer Steve Moore came across as bitter during his interview Wednesday night on CBC Â– the 28-year-old's first in the three years since Todd Bertuzzi took his career away Â– I can't blame him in the least.
What would your demeanor be if some self-appointed arbiter of justice doused the dreams you'd worked so hard to realize? How would you react if, after being the master of your body all your life, you were suddenly prisoner to it Â– and only because another guy's brain couldn't control his fists?
How would you feel if your onetime employer Â– whose lax rule enforcement and revenge-obsessed workplace led directly to your injuries Â– hadn't made institutional changes to ensure no one else suffered as you did?
Bloody right, you'd be sour.
Â“A lot of people talk about moving on,Â” Moore told the CBC. Â“Well, I am trying to, but I haven't been able to."
It's no wonder he can't. Moore's $19-million lawsuit against Bertuzzi and the NHL is in legal limbo; and since his post-concussion symptoms continue to linger, he currently has no source of income. All he can do is try to train for a hockey comeback as much as his body will allow.
Which is not very much at all.
Â“(Doctors and therapists have) started to think that (a comeback is) not too hopeful, but they haven't told me definitively that it's not happening,Â” he said. Â“I am still trying to make it happen.Â”
As usual, hockey's blame-the-victim-ites will continue to promote their crackpot theories whenever the Moore assault is discussed. Â“It was his fault for hitting Markus Naslund,Â” they'll say. Â“If he dropped the gloves the first time Bertuzzi offered, none of this would've happened.Â”
To Moore's credit, he refuses to succumb to that blather, or to self-doubt about what most people consider a legal check.
Â“I don't think I can possibly regret that hit,Â” Moore said. Â“The ref said it was a clean hit, the NHL reviewed it and said it was a clean hit.Â”
That's the real problem with the vigilante mindset so prevalent among North American pro hockey types Â– even if you don't subscribe to somebody's idea of right and wrong, you're forced to subscribe to it anyway.
Granted, the NHL took harsher punitive steps with Bertuzzi than almost any other player in its history. But frontier justice (see Lindy Ruff's actions after Chris Neil took out Chris Drury) continues to be tacitly approved by the league, despite the undeniable fact no other sport allows its athletes to self-police.
Can you imagine what the NBA would look like if players were permitted to call their own fouls? Can't you just picture the public reaction if, for instance, the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons were allowed to rain down punches on each other a couple years ago until their arms were too exhausted to keep doing it?
It wouldn't be tolerated at all, and perhaps that says more about what society will tolerate from black men as opposed to white men. But maybe the NBA and other leagues are sending the right message for the right reasons. Maybe they correctly see the settling of grudges as the league's job, not the duty of players or management.
Maybe they value their players as both key business components and human beings with lives to live after their playing days are over.
Meanwhile, with every harmless fine or suspension handed out to NHLers who take outrageous liberties with their opponents, Moore is being told guys like him, third-and-fourth-liners unlikely to play in an All-Star Game, never really mattered.
While Bertuzzi was named to an Olympic team and now skates for the playoff-bound Red Wings, Moore has been left to pick up the pieces of his life and wonder what he did to deserve to be abandoned by the game he's adored as long as he can remember.
Â“It's sometimes tough to watch games at night and not really have any connection to it,Â” he said. Â“It is such a different experience from living the life every single day. I mean, every minute has something to do with going to the game or coming back from the game, pre-game mealsÂ…and then nothing. It's pretty shocking to the system.Â”
But not shocking enough to get the league to wake up and truly take stock of a culture that can decimate lives forever, simply because some John Wayne wannabe has a burr in his saddle.
Â“I try not to judge people,Â” Moore said after being asked whether he still wants an apology from Bertuzzi. Â“Actions speak for themselves."
They certainly do. And that's why, three years after the fact, the NHL should be as ashamed as it should've been when Moore was removed from the ice strapped to a stretcher.
For a sport that loves to tout the inherent decency of its players, hockey has a heartless side to it as well. That's what the sight of Steve Moore reminds them of. That's why they wish he'd just shut up and fade into the history books. But that's precisely why he shouldn't.
He is searching for retribution, but he's doing it the proper way.
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