National Hockey League deputy commissioner Bill Daly's reaction to today's news that a settlement has been reached in the Steve Moore-Todd Bertuzzi incident of 2004 says it all.
"We are pleased that the resolution of this matter allows the parties to turn the page and look to the future," Daly said in an email to media.
More like the NHL is relieved the case won't go to court, where hockey's dirty laundry, litany of excuses and rationalizations about violence in the game would have been aired.
No need to say more, really. I've said enough over the years about this stain on what is such a great game.
And a column from August 16, 2005:
Hero worship for big, bad Todd continues
Ah, it's all Steve Moore's fault. He's not taking Todd Bertuzzi's calls.
That was the sense one got yesterday. More than 10 times, we were told, the Bertuzzi camp has tried to reach Moore, whom Bertuzzi severely injured in a cowardly assault from behind on March 8, 2004.
No answer. Maybe Moore is having trouble picking up the phone, given that he's recovering from a broken neck and other injuries.
Moore has stated he has no desire to discuss things with Bertuzzi, at least not now. Good. Good for Moore, whom Bertuzzi obliquely criticized yesterday by suggesting that "some people forgive a lot easier than others" during a pathetic "the show must go on" press conference at Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp in Vancouver. The gathering devolved, sadly, into just another "how do you feel, how tough has it been, Todd" hockey presser that was a perfectly sad example of why some in sports media are often derided as a bunch of hero-worshipping, would-be jocks playing in the sandbox.
Sad, too, that the gathering was not wired so that media across the country could participate and ask simple questions like . . .
If you could reach Moore, Todd, what exactly would you say? Would you, finally, apologize for what you did to him, not for "what happened out there?" Forgive us if we've missed it.
Maybe then, after offering a true apology, you might be forgiven. It might be worth a try and you missed your chance, again, in a nationally televised press conference yesterday.
Obviously, due to pending legal issues he faces in a civil suit brought by Moore, Bertuzzi could not delve deeply into the particulars of what happened on the ice that night. It would be an admission of guilt, that he stalked Moore after the Vancouver Canucks put a bounty on the former Colorado Avalanche forward's head. This was done, according to hockey's "code" to exact revenge for a borderline hit Moore had struck Canucks star captain Markus Naslund in a previous game.
However, what is usually conveniently -- and maddeningly -- forgotten in cause and effect discussions of the March 8 incident is that hockey betrayed its own hallowed code in this scenario. For according to that code, when Moore fought the Canucks' Matt Cookie earlier in the game in question, he had accepted and honoured that code as part of the game, for better or for worse, civilized or not.
Trouble was, from the Canucks point of view, that Moore won the fight with Cooke.
So that called for an in-game amendment to hockey's constitution. Cooke didn't do his job, so others had to keep trying until the deed was done, and Bertuzzi eventually did it with full knowledge of what he was doing and, sadly for hockey, what was expected of him. And now we're supposed to feel sorry for him because he went too far?
However, from the NHL's and Team Canada's point of view all is now forgiven and this is not to suggest that the death penalty, literally or figuratively, should be Bertuzzi's fate. He was going to be reinstated to play in the NHL sooner or later, regardless Moore's condition. Even the Moore camp admits that and did not seek a life ban for Bertuzzi; they just wanted the penalty to bear some relationship to the time it will take Moore to recover.
But the whole affair has become sadly, shamelessly cynical, turned inside out by the accepted conventional wisdom of a sport which despite its repeated acts of violence -- usually committed in cowardly fashion from behind -- likes to promote itself as being played by "warriors" possessed of great courage.
If Todd Bertuzzi had any real courage, yesterday he would have sent a positive message to the hockey world and the "new NHL" and declined the offer to play for Team Canada at the 2006 Olympics.
He would have said, no, Steve Moore is still in recovery, I got off easy because nobody played NHL hockey last year due to the lockout, everyone lost money, and I will decline in the interests of truly promoting all that is beautiful and should be celebrated about this great game -- speed and skill.
And if Wayne Gretzky, a.k.a. Teflon Man in Canada, had any real moral fibre in this instance he would not have extended the Team Canada invitation almost before Bertuzzi had set foot outside NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's office upon Bertuzzi's reinstatement.
All of which is way too much to hope for, obviously, given that we are discussing hockey in Canada where, contrary to our stereotypical national character, we become Ugly Canadians possessed of a Just Win, Baby, ethos.
But if Bertuzzi scores the winning goal in the gold medal game at the Olympics in February, won't at least some of us feel a little sick inside?