The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/19/13 at 02:49 PM ET
Sportsnet's Luke Fox is compiling a "Top 10" list of players that Fox believes will stand out in HBO's 24/7 series spotlighting the Red Wings and Maple Leafs as the teams prepare for the Winter Classic. I can tell you for a fact that the player occupying Fox's #9 spot has and perhaps has earned a bad reputation, but he is in fact remarkably thoughtful, articulate and genuine:
Todd Bertuzzi is something of a mystery these days.
The Red Wings winger has, of course, already secured everlasting notoriety for his ugly 2004 attack on Steve Moore, which ended the Avalanche forward’s career, cost Bertuzzi a 17-month suspension (though the 2004-05 lockout meant he missed only 20 NHL games) and about half a million in salary and, of course, lost him the benefit of the doubt for the rest of his time in the league.
But that was a long time ago, and Bertuzzi’s a different player now. A combination of age, back problems and a no-doubt fervent desire to steer far clear of any further league discipline long ago took the dangerous edge out of his game. He’s now a slow winger with a nose for the net and a fine set of hands that are often on display as one of the Red Wings go-to shootout options.
Red Wings fans who've watched Bertuzzi register the bulk of his 5 goals, 4 assists and 9 points whileplaying alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg--after challenging himself to essentially "earn a spot" on the team's crowded roster at 38 years of age--might disagree with the "slow" quip, and Bertuzzi's presence alone serves as something of a "nuclear deterrent" to cheap shots and intimidation:
But what’s Todd Bertuzzi really like? Does that fire that burned so hot it almost cost him his livelihood, ever come out behind the closed door of the dressing room? Will he open up to the cameras about what his life has been like—and if he does, will it be self-serving justification, or an honest discussion of the legacy of his attack on Moore? Is he reflective these days, realistic about his place in the game? Or does he still feel, as he so often seemed to, like a victim of horrible circumstances?
I don't expect Bertuzzi to speak about his situation, period. Steve Moore's lawyer, Tim Danson, is suing Bertuzzi, the Canucks and the NHL for $38 million, and Bertuzzi's legal issues are a no-go-zone in terms of the press's available lines of questioning. Bertuzzi simply refuses to discuss the situation, and that much is an understanding.
He is someone who understands that he's had to take responsibility for what happened, but he's not going to place himself in legal peril for the sake of trying to redeem himself in the public eye. Bertuzzi "is who he is" and he doesn't operate as if he expects anyone to give him sympathy.
What kind of wisdom does the 38-year-old have to offer to young Wings like Brendan Smith, who have been known to get drawn in to on-ice nastiness from time to time? How often does he give thanks that, almost 10 years after a moment that will forever live in hockey infamy, he’s not only still collecting a paycheque, but spending the twilight of his career skating alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg?
Bertuzzi is a leader in the Wings' locker room, and he takes pride in what he does. He can be gruff and brusquely blunt, but the Wings insist that he's a "teddy bear" for a reason,and he's simply happy to be able to serve as a mentor while reminding people that, "I used to score, you know" when he displays offensive flourishes or serves notice that the youngsters who are after his job will find themselves facing an uphill battle.
The producers—and hockey fans—will have questions for Todd Bertuzzi. We hope they are tough ones, and we hope he’s ready to give some honest answers. A tell-it-like-it-is session from Bertuzzi would surely make waves in the hockey world.
In this sense, I believe that the fans will be disappointed because Bertuzzi's been advised that he simply cannot address the Steve Moore incident directly, and I don't think that's "wrong."
More importantly, if I may be frank, Bertuzzi doesn't give a flying *#$%@& what people think about him. He tries to be the best player, teammate and family man he can, and his status as someone who is fiercely protective of his privacy and someone who's simply not allowed to address what happened nearly 10 years ago don't take away from his status as someone who's grown by tens of miles since then, nor do the no-go-zones take away from the older, wiser Bertuzzi's character, sincerity, heart-on-his-sleeve pride about being a Red Wing or his belief that, put simply, he's doing the best he can to make the most of the hand he's been dealt and dealt to himself.
He's smart, he's articulate, he's got a surprisingly dry sense of humor and he's really remarkably down-to-earth and self-depreciating...
But there is no shame in his game but he has no desire to be viewed as anything but himsel. I find it incredibly hard to believe that Bertuzzi will attempt to garner a gram of sympathy from the public. He simply is who he is and he does what he does, and that's it.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.