The Hit Heard Around The World

Todd Bertuzzi when he played for the Detroit Red Wings
Todd Bertuzzi when he played for the Vancouver Canucks

Todd Bertuzzi has one of those faces you just want to punch, for absolutely no reason. Well actually, I’m going to give you a good reason to punch this man deadass in his face. Writing this article physically made me cringe for a second because I was watching this game and saw this hit in real time. Yup, it was 2004- and 15-year-old Nikki was sitting around watching hockey with her family when a hit that left the world stunned occurred. You couldn’t turn on ESPN for the next week without seeing the video footage get replayed over and over again. I love some good old dirty hockey, the more fights and hits the better. But this hit is one I definitely could have gone the rest of my life without seeing. 

Todd Bertuzzi was born February 2, 1975 in Sadbury, Ontario. When Bertuzzi was a teenager his father, Albert, survived a near fatal car accident. He has said his son takes after him in the toughness and aggression department and that he is proud of Todd’s local reputation as a “dirty” hockey player. Well, Albert sounds like a real winner. Growing up, Bertuzzi played minor league hockey with the Nickel Centre and Sudbury Minor Hockey programs. In 1990–91, Bertuzzi played as an underaged player in the major midget ranks with the Sudbury Capitals AAA team. Physically built as a power forward throughout his youth, he stood 6 feet and 2 inches and weighed 195 pounds (88.5 kilograms) by the time he was 15-years-old. That is all I have on his life growing up. You guys are probably happy because you don’t care about all that anyway.

Bertuzzi was selected 23rd overall by the New York Islanders in the 1993 NHL draft. Following the draft, he underwent surgery for chipped bones in his elbow in August that same year. As a result of the surgery, he was unable to take part in the Islanders September training camp and was sent back down to their farm team. Todd Bertuzzi would spend the next two years and in 1995 he attended the Islanders training camp and made his NHL debut on October 7, 1995. Todd Bertuzzi was expected to be the Islanders star forward. Later on, in his career Bertuzzi would say his aggressive playing style was pushed on him by the Islanders and his teammates. Stating that former New York Islander forward Clark Gillies told him; “If you’re built like a freight train, you can’t drive around like a Volkswagen”. Todd Bertuzzi would never live up to the club’s expectations and in 1997 he requested a trade. On February 6, 1998 he would end up being traded to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round draft pick.  

Bertuzzi instantly excelled with his new team and would record his first ever NHL hat trick (scoring 3 goals in one game) on December 30, 2000. In the first month of the 2001 season Todd Bertuzzi earned a 10-game suspension from the league. This was result of him leaving the bench to help teammate Ed Jovanovski in a fight during a game against the Colorado Avalanche. Keep that team in mind because they will come up again later. 2 months after returning from suspension, Bertuzzi went 15 consecutive games with at least a point, scoring 7 goals and 12 assists from January 3 – February 4, 2002. The streak tied Petr Nedvěd for the longest in Canucks history. That same season Bertuzzi earned his second career hat trick on March 19, 2002. During the 2003 season Bertuzzi played in his first NHL All-Star game and earned his third career hat trick on St. Patrick’s day. That was about all the good that happened in the beginning of Todd Bertuzzi’s career because in 2004 he would do something that would cause the league (as in the NHL) to hand down an indefinite suspension.  

On February 16, 2004 during a match between the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche (see I told you they would come up again). Avalanche center Steve Moore checked (a hockey check is a defensive hit against a player) Canucks Markus Naslund in the head, causing Naslund to leave the game with a concussion (later it was discovered he also suffered a chipped elbow). No penalty was given and it was decided that the hit was a clean one and didn’t go against any rules. As a result of the ruling Moore got neither a fine or suspension down the line. Well, Todd Bertuzzi didn’t like that hit on his teammate very much and let me tell you what this piece of dookie did. In a rematch between the Canucks and Avalanche Bertuzzi waited until the third and final period of the game to make his move. Todd Bertuzzi began following Steve Moore around the ice, taunting him and attempting to provoke him into a fight. 

When Moore didn’t respond to the taunting Bertuzzi grabbed him by the back of his jersey and punched him in the side of the face from behind. This punch knocked Steve Moore out cold and began to fall fast first onto the ice. Guys, this was not pretty to watch but it gets worse. Bertuzzi didn’t let go of Moore’s jersey after punching him and as Moore stared to fall Bertuzzi gave him an extra little shove and landed on top of Moore as his face met the ice, causing Steve Moore’s neck to break. As soon as both men were down Avalanche players began attacking Todd Bertuzzi in retaliation of what he did to their teammate. Dude, all of the sudden it was just fighting galore. Punches were flying everywhere from both sides. Gloves and helmets littered the ice and chaos ensued. You can’t do that anymore by the way, players can’t throw off their gear prior to a fight. It is so lame before they would throw off their gloves and helmets, circle each other bit on the ice and the fighting began but I digress. 

Once the referees got all the players on the ice under control Todd Bertuzzi was given a match penalty and was ejected from the game. Per league rules he was also suspended indefinitely for his dirty play tactic after a ruling from commissioner Gary Bettman. The whole arena sat silent as medical staff tended to Moore who was still down on the ice and not moving. After approximately 10 grueling minutes Steve Moore was placed on a stretcher and removed from the ice. Applause filled the arena from fans and players on both teams. The applause was small consolation for what Moore suffered. Steve Moore was treated for 3 fractured vertebrae in his neck, a grade 3 concussion (I honestly didn’t even know concussions had grades), vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves, and facial lacerations. Moore also suffered short term amnesia. This man could have died, he could have lost his life over some stupid pissing match that was completely one sided on Bertuzzi’s end. Bertuzzi knew what he was doing was dirty and he didn’t give a single flying f***. 

Does Todd Bertuzzi have no regard for human life!? If you can’t tell by now, I don’t think very highly of this man and I have 0 respect for him. Bertuzzi apologized to Moore and his family, as well as to Burke, Canucks owner John McCaw, Jr., the Canucks organization, his teammates, and the fans in a press conference 2 days later. Take your apology and shove it up your balloon knot, Bertuzzi. You also died because of me but look I’m saying I’m sorry, isn’t that enough!? On March 11, 2004 the league decided that Tood Bertuzzi would be suspended (without pay) for the remainder of the Canucks season, which ended up being 13 games of the regular season plus seven playoff games. The Vancouver Canucks organization personally gave Bertuzzi a $250,000 fine. I think that is the highest fine I have ever heard a player has been given in the history of all the sports in the world. It was a well-deserved one. While the following NHL season was suspended due to the 2004–05 lockout, that was such a tragic time.  Bertuzzi intended to play in Europe, but the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) extended his NHL suspension to cover their jurisdiction. RIGHT ON MY INTERNATIONAL HOMIES! Bertuzzi remained professionally inactive during the 2004–05 season. The IIHF’s sanction also kept him from representing Canada in the 2004and 2005 World Championships, as well as the 2004 World Cup. Bet that left a sour taste in Bertuzzi’s mouth.  

Gary Bettman scheduled a reinstatement hearing for Bertuzzi on April 26, 2005. The hearing was attended separately by Bertuzzi and Moore. Smart move, I would not want to see what would happen if those 2 men were in a room together. Prior to the 2005–06 season, Bettman announced Bertuzzi’s reinstatement on August 8, citing that “Mr. Bertuzzi had paid a very significant price for his conduct,” adding that he felt Bertuzzi was “genuinely remorseful and apologetic.” Do I have to be the one to say it, BULL F****** SHIT, that man isn’t remorseful about one damn thing. Let me stop acting like I know the guy, he might genuinely be remorseful for his actions but I doubt it. Bertuzzi’s 17-month suspension was the fourth-longest suspension in NHL history at the time. The suspension cost Todd Bertuzzi $501,926.39 in forfeited salary, as well as an approximate $350,000 in lost endorsements. Oh man, that hurt me, that is a ton of money. On the day of his reinstatement, Team Canada’s executive director, Wayne Gretzky (the “Great One” himself), offered him a spot on the national team’s summer orientation camp in preparation for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Oh Wayne, your heart is as big as your bank account and that is pretty damn big. 

The NHL might have been done punishing Bertuzzi but the legal system was not, On June 24, 2004, after a 4-month investigation the criminal justice branch of the Attorney General of British Columbia announced that they would be filing formal charges of assault causing bodily harm against Todd Bertuzzi. If found guilty Bertuzzi was facing the possibility of spending a maximum of 1.5 years in prison. On December 22, 2004 Todd Bertuzzi plead guilty to the charges as part of a plea deal that had been put on the table by the prosecutors. He was given a conditional discharge that required 80 hours of community service and a year of probation. Additionally, Bertuzzi was prohibited from playing in any hockey game Steve Moore was competing in. If I was the Moore family, I would have been LIVID. Talk about getting off with a pissy ass sentence. It gets even better, under Canadian law, Bertuzzi’s successful completion of his probationary period precluded him from a criminal record. What in the actual f***, keep that shit on his criminal record, they were criminal charges after all, right!? 

Steve Moore expressed disappointment regarding Bertuzzi’s discharge (rightfully so) and was upset that he was unable to attend the court date, having to issue a written victim statement instead. Moore’s lawyer, Tim Danson, was given one day’s notice of the court date following Bertuzzi’s plea bargain, which he said was insufficient time for Moore to travel to Vancouver. Let me ask you this, why is the victim the one that got screwed during this whole thing? Moore wasn’t going down without a fight and took matters into his own hands. On February 17, 2005 Moore filed a civil lawsuit against Bertuzzi and numerous individuals from the Vancouver Canucks organization in Colorado. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was thrown out in October 2005, when a Colorado judge ruled the case was better suited for Canadian courts, as all the defendants as well as Moore himself were Canadian citizens. In an attempt to appeal the decision Planning to appeal the decision, Steve Moore’s lawyer, Tim Danson stated publicly the following month that Moore had begun skating and doing regular workouts again, but continued to suffer concussion-related symptoms. 

Steve Moore still wasn’t giving up, on February 16, 2006, Moore filed another lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court Tood Bertuzzi against Bertuzzi and the Canucks organization, seeking CAD$15,000,000 (I had to google how to write out the Canadian dollar, I’m not that bright guys) in pecuniary damages for loss of income, CAD$1,000,000 for aggravated damages, and CAD$2,000,000 for punitive damages. Steve Moore’s parents, who were watching their son on television when the attack happened, also sued, seeking CAD$1,500,000 for “negligent infliction of nervous shock and mental distress”. Moore is getting a little greedy in my opinion but I can’t imagine how his parents felt watching that happen to their son in real time, I can’t imagine how any parent would feel watching something like that happen to their child. In December 2006, Gary Bettman and top lieutenant Bill Daly facilitated a meeting between Moore’s representatives and the defendants in hopes of agreeing on an out-of-court settlement. An out-of-court settlement was reached in Moore’s lawsuit in October 2014. The terms of the settle were confidential and remain unknown. 

Todd Bertuzzi continued to play hockey for the NHL and stayed with the Vancouver Canucks until 2006 before being traded to the Florida Panthers. Between 2006 and 2008 he would play for the Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings, and Anaheim Ducks. He would go on to play for the Calgary Flames in 2009 before returning to Detroit once more in 2010. Todd Bertuzzi retired from the NHL on January 21, 2015. At the time Bertuzzi left the Vancouver Canucks he was ranked seventh all-time among franchise scoring leaders with 449 points.  

Fun Fact: Todd’s nephew, Tyler Bertuzzi, currently plays hockey for the Detroit Red Wings. 

There you have it folks the story of Todd Bertuzzi, a man who was actually pretty damn good at playing hockey but will forever be remembered as the guy who made the dirty hit on Steve Moore. Unfortunately, Bertuzzi was never able to get away from that memory, hockey fans everywhere remember and continue to bring up that fateful game. I’m not saying you should go on YouTube if you want to see the footage of the hit from that game but…. you can go to YouTube if you want to see the footage of the hit from that game. I’m not going to tell you that you just have to search Tood Bertuzzi and Steve Moore hit……but you just have to search Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore hit. 

Another fun fact: In a October 2020 (not very long ago at all) apology to the media and his fans Todd Bertuzzi said this; “I was too hard, I told you guys, ‘Sorry if I was a douche, man, It’s true, I wasn’t very co-operative at times because I wasn’t ready for that stuff. I didn’t want to speak every day. I was paid to go play hockey and entertain fans not to have stuff written in the paper. I could care less what was written in the paper, the stories that you guys needed. I just wanted to go play hockey and entertain fans, that’s all I wanted to do.” At least the dude knows he was a dick.

Sources:

“Todd Bertuzzi Apologizes” – The Score

“Todd Bertuzzi” – Biography

“Todd Bertuzzi Opens Up” – Sportsnet

Steve Moore post Todd Bertuzzi hit, that is exactly how he laid on the ice for approximately 10 minutes.
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