The thing that always amazes me about the start of a new hockey season, even a staggered start like this one, is all the gushing optimism.
Everything is a feel-good story. Good teams are said to be great. Bad teams are said to be -- barring injuries -- hopeful. Even lousy teams -- and they know who they are -- preach the doctrine of hard work, good luck and the need to show the pundits who picked them for such lowly positions that they, too, will succeed.
It's easy to get caught up in it all, but you have to draw the line somewhere. For me, the line starts with Todd Bertuzzi "good guy" stories.
Ever since the bruising winger, whose vicious sucker punch broke the neck of Avalanche forward Steve Moore in 2004, signed to play this season with the Flames, such stories have been all over the Internet and in various publications -- just as they were when Bertuzzi was reinstated in Vancouver for 2005-06, and traded to Florida in 2006, and traded to Detroit in 2007, and signed by Anaheim prior to last season.
Bertuzzi's new teammates in Calgary have rushed to his support, saying that what happened the night he assaulted Moore is part of his past. The corner has been turned and Bertuzzi deserves to go on. Former Canucks teammates, the very players whose season was ruined by an act that drew outrage and disdain, added that he was largely "misunderstood" and the incident wasn't an indication of "the real" Todd Bertuzzi.
Even Flames President Ken King has said that Bertuzzi, having paid his penalty (an indefinite suspension that amounted to 20 NHL games, approximately $500,000 in lost salary, plus assault charges that yielded a year's probation with community service and no criminal record), deserves a second chance. Despite polls that indicate a split opinion in that regard, King maintains that fans in Calgary are willing to give it to the notorious forward.
Funny, but I can't help but wonder who speaks for Steve Moore.
Moore can't say much on his own. The matter, more than four years removed from the terrible event, has still not made its way into court. Because of that, there is a moratorium regarding public comments on the case in Canada. It is a court decision that effectively keeps Moore and anyone else associated with the ugly incident from speaking out.
If he could speak, you can be pretty sure that Moore doesn't see Bertuzzi as a good guy who made a mistake and, having paid, deserves his second chance. Moore is more likely to point out that what happened to him never needed to happen if Bertuzzi had not been playing a role that has existed in hockey as long as the game itself. Moore could also rightfully add that it's difficult to acknowledge that Bertuzzi has "suffered enough" when, tearful apology aside, his suspension was diluted by the lockout (he was forbidden to play in Europe), and that the criminal case was one of the more blatant miscarriages of justice.
Prior to sentencing in Vancouver, Moore was allowed only to issue a statement that read, "If I'm ever able to play again, I would ask that Todd Bertuzzi never be permitted to play in any sporting activity I'm involved in."
It's difficult to see Bertuzzi getting absolution from hockey while Moore, the victim, is now muzzled after his chance to make a living in the game he loves best has been taken away, seemingly forever. It's fair to say that Bertuzzi hasn't been punished nearly enough. But that could change this winter.
Moore's claim of injury and permanent physical damage is in the discovery phase and a Dec. 15 date is on the court calendar in Toronto to at least discuss a mediation of his $38 million dollar lawsuit. That's the first step toward what will likely be a very public trial.
Whether that happens is still very much up in the air. There have been reports that Moore was approached by lawyers from the NHL and the Bertuzzi camp regarding an out-of-court settlement, and that Moore turned them down. There are also very strong rumors that having gone this far and waited this long, Moore very much wants his day in court -- a day when he will put on trial the NHL and its long history of harboring and even nurturing a culture of on-ice violence. If that happens, Bertuzzi, perhaps his former coach Marc Crawford, and even the league will finally be made to answer and possibly pay significantly. Then, and only then, will it be right and fair to say that Bertuzzi deserves his chance to move on.
Anything other than that is a charade -- just like the one Bertuzzi has been living with every "good guy" story about him that comes out.