Open Ice The suspension the NHL handed Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi for his attack on Colorado's Steve Moore -- the remainder of the regular season, all of this year's playoffs and an application for reinstatement -- is the heaviest ever handed out as far as I'm concerned. Not only will it cost Bertuzzi at least 17 games, but it basically cost the Vancouver Canucks a chance at the Stanley Cup.
The physical play of Todd Bertuzzi (top) crossed the line in the Steve Moore incident. But while removing Bertuzzi from the lineup changes everything about the Canucks, the league did the right thing in sitting him down until at least the beginning of next season. Colin Campbell and the rest of the NHL brass acted swiftly and decisively to send a message. This sets a precedent by telling players that crossing the line with their on-ice behavior is unacceptable, and it should be a good lesson for everyone.
As for what this means on the ice in Vancouver, there is no doubt the Canucks are a much different team today than yesterday. Bertuzzi is one of the 10 best players in the world, with his combination of offensive skills and physical style of play, and taking him away is taking away maybe their biggest impact player.
He plays a ton of minutes and commands attention from the opposition's No. 1 defense pairing, so without Bertuzzi on the ice that top pair can focus all of it's attention on Vancouver captain Markus Naslund and, to a lesser extent, his linemate Brendan Morrison. Both are very good players, but neither is as physical as Bertuzzi and neither has his ability to camp in front of the net and create havoc. And the loss of his scoring ability also puts more pressure on the defense and goaltender, so this is a huge loss in every way for the Canucks.
If he's smart, Vancouver coach Marc Crawford will play the "us vs. the world" card in the dressing room. He has to get his players fired up to prove something and make everyone who is saying Vancouver is finished this year eat their words. Crawford has to unite his team, and if he's smart he'll get a lot of mileage out of that card.
This situation isn't necessarily a black eye for hockey, though, because anyone who doesn't like the physical nature of the sport is going to bash it anyway. It's amazing that Major League Baseball cannot get its players to submit to drug testing and has pitchers who throw at guy's heads, yet people zero in on one unfortunate incident in hockey and point to it as an example of what's wrong with the game.
Those who know hockey understand that a line was crossed and that what Bertuzzi did is should never be part of the game. They are likely the same group that will use this as another argument for abolishing the instigator rule -- which gives an extra minor penalty to the player who starts a fight -- and letting the players police themselves by exacting retribution before situations like this arise.
Others will be calling for an end to fighting and a move to European rules, but they likely don't watch a lot of overseas hockey. If they did, they'd see that the European game is the dirtiest in the world. Players over there engage in all kinds of stickwork -- slashing, spearing, high-sticking -- and the physical play involves kicking and the like. There is no accountability or retribution, so a dirty player can run rampant all game long without having to face justice.
And the faction that says the NHL should adopt international rules forgets that the Olympics feature the eight best teams in the world, each featuring the 20 best players from their countries. The skill level across the board is totally different and the product will be better no matter what rules they play under.
Many people who don't truly understand the game are talking right now, but they are exactly the group who should not be saying anything. The NHL is dealing with one terrible incident and will survive. Let's just hope Steve Moore's career survives.
That's a good article and he's right on the money because the "us against the world" has already started.
Brian Burke ripped into the media today and stood up for Bertuzzi's character as a person. It's the same thing that Wayne Gretzky did for Team Canada in Salt Lake City. Who cares if everyone calls Burke a whiner or a cryer? The more attention on him, the easier it is for the team to focus on playing hockey.
The interesting person I heard today was Bill Clement (on the TK Show). He had an interesting perspective, since he was once cheap-shotted from behind in a game. But, he still was mostly a defender of the game and the need to bring back some of the more traditional enforcer-related elements of the game, to prevent cheap stick work and dirty hits taken with no instigator or third man in penalties. He really took Tony aback with some of his comments.