The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/20/14 at 02:19 AM ET
The Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore lawsuit saga never involved any sort of incident that occurred while Bertuzzi was a member of the Red Wings...
But I can tell you for a fact that during his pair of stints with Detroit (2007 and 2009-2014), Bertuzzi's mere presence cost the team die-hard fans who refused to root for the team as long as "that scumbag" was on the team, Bertuzzi's presence prompted insistence that the team was "cursed" as long as #44 was in Detroit, and Bertuzzi's presence brought out both apologists and, "Until he pays I will never truly respect the man" fans.
On Tuesday, though we'll likely never know the terms thereof, Bertuzzi, the Canucks, Marc Crawford and the NHL finally settled with Steve Moore and his high-profile lawyer, Tim Danson, in an out-of-court settlement that narrowly averted Danson's desire to "put the game on trial."
As both a Red Wings fan and a human being, I hope that Moore received the pay-out he needed to pay for his ongoing medical expenses and to serve as the fiscal foundation upon which he can embark upon some post-secondary education and a comfortable, happy life;
As both a Red Wings fan and a human being, I also hope that whatever Bertuzzi paid out doesn't mean that he has to work a day job to take care of his wife and three kids as his career's clearly come to an end due to chronic and debilitating back and leg pain.
When Bertuzzi first came to the Wings in a high-profile trade at the 2007 trade deadline, fresh off the spinal fusion that limited his effectiveness for the balance of his career (I often wonder what kind of player he would've been had he employed a better surgeon or had he not pushed so very hard to return to play for the Wings), he was still a bit of a jerk, still prideful and possessing a me-first mentality, but he did his best to blend in with the team and to give his best effort.
Then he went and chased the money the then-Anaheim Ducks could give him, when he was bought out by the Ducks, he headed to Calgary, and in the summer of 2009, after enduring knee and hip/hernia surgeries, Bertuzzi was brought back with Jason Williams.
During three full seasons with the Wings, Bertuzzi was a point-every-other-game player who provided a "nuclear deterrent's" amount of intimidation, and after a 2013 campaign limited due to a back issue that became a leg strength issue, he had a very strong start to his 2013-2014 season, but as the season wore on, it became very clear that his skating and checking abilities weren't what they used to be, and when he spent time on the bench, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist blossomed, so he lost his job. Bertuzzi cleaned out his locker quietly, and he said that he wanted to keep playing, but he didn't say a bad word about the team or the coach.
During his second campaign with the Wings, the term "changed man" applied to Bertuzzi.
He liked to point out that, "I used to score, you know," but he embraced his role as a secondary scorer, net-front presence, shootout specialist, and in no small part a "support player." He did his best to play on the top two lines, but if he was on the third or fourth line, he grumbled, but he accepted his role.
Mostly, he worked his ass off, and while his inconsistency and his instincts to deke toward the backhand or to drop pass in flight drove Wings fans nuts, he scored some clutch goals and provided some "clutch intimidation" during part of the Wings' long tenure sans an enforcer that could keep up with the team's puck possession style. Bertuzzi didn't drop the gloves very often, but he could turn and burn with Datsyuk and Zetterberg and grind it out with Draper, Helm or Glendening.
More importantly, Bertuzzi was a solid citizen on the bench, as we found out in HBO's 24/7, he was a mentor for the team's younger players, and while the sometimes-surly and grumpy Bertuzzi could never address his legal issues, he was up-front with the media and more than occasionally glib, self-effacing and funny.
The players slowly but surely let it be known that Bertuzzi was in fact "a big teddy bear" behind closed doors, and when his guard did slip, he'd make remarkably astute and nuanced observations.
In the community, nary a bad word was said about Big Bad Bert. People who interacted with him insisted that he was a solid citizen who loved his kids and was in fact very nice (though intimidating).
In Detroit itself, on the ice, in the locker room and in the Metro Detroit community, the Wings' players, coaches, media and fans came to learn that someone who committed an absolutely horrific, unconscionable act had grown up into from a cocky superstar who was also a super *#$%@& into a more muted, more version of himself.
My limited interactions with Bertuzzi were extremely positive. He was thoughtful, articulate and accommodating with his time, and his sense of humor was off-puttingly charming.
During the entirety of his tenure with Detroit, Wings fans watched Todd Bertuzzi grow up, and we had to come to terms with the concept that a dumb, arrogant punk who committed a despicable act of violence upon another human being could in fact use the traumatic act as a slow-but-steady foundation for growing into a good and decent man.
I know that some fans and some members of the media will never view Todd Bertuzzi as anything less than a monster. If Steve Moore still hates Todd Bertuzzi, that's his right.
But the rest of us need to understand that Todd Bertuzzi's a complicated human being, and that people who commit nothing less than criminal offenses on the ice are still human beings.
When we witness people committing violent acts on the ice, and when we hear about people committing violent acts in our communities, there is in fact nothing more dangerous for us to do than to write those who commit violence as non-human monsters. It's far more disturbing to realize that, at least sometimes, people who do terrible things can be just as human as you or I, but the truth of the matter is that there are few monsters in the world.
Todd Bertuzzi is a flawed human being and he's going to have to carry what he did with him for the rest of his life, morally, mentally, and especially financially, and that's good and just, but now that all of this is over...
Steve Moore, first and foremost, deserves to be allowed to move on and live the rest of his life.
Todd Bertuzzi does, too, because he's never going to truly "redeem himself" to an extent that we can say, "Oh well, what's past is past"--that's not possible when someone committed such a heinous act--but he grew up into a kind and decent human being.
Those who view him as a monster need to know that his Red Wings teammates called him a friend, and his Red Wings fans, myself included, were proud to cheer on the player and person he became during his time in Detroit.
I hope both men find peace and I hope that Todd continues to live in Metro Detroit, because he a welcome member of our community.
He's still a man who committed a terrible, unconscionable attack, but he's also a human being, and he's going to pay a significant chunk of his career earnings (and yes, I'm pretty dang sure that his career is over) to Moore. As it should be.
Anyway, here's a summary of the coverage surrounding the lawsuit's settlement:
- TSN eventually confirmed that the lawsuit had been settled after an afternoon's worth of snags, and TSN posted a pair of videos discussing the settlement, with the second video including Rick Westhead's assumption that Moore's age, Harvard degree and Bertuzzi's status as being convicted for the act = a safe estimate of a $25-30 million settlement;
- Sportsnet posted the Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno's confirmation of a settlement and a pair of Geo-blocked, Canada-only videos;
- The Toronto Sun offered a "More to Come" and then posited Steve Simmons' take. Simmons has been a passionate advocate for Moore from the outset, and as you might imagine, Simmons feels that Moore should have "gotten his day in court" and "peel[ed] back a layer of the underbelly of professional hockey — putting the apparent code and the game on trial. Simmons suggests that "justice delayed was justice denied," and I'm guessing that he feels more hostility toward Bertuzzi than he does toward the advanced stats community.
I have to say that I disagree with Simmons' conceit that the out-of-court settlement means that this entire incident will "go away." It's never going to disappear from the conscience of hockey.
- The Toronto Star's Josh Rubin posited an article which includes a significant statement from Bertuzzi's lawyer, as well as a list of the principals involved (minus Brad May):
Bertuzzi’s lawyer Geoff Adair said settling the suit and putting the whole episode behind him comes as a huge relief to his client.
“It has been incredibly difficult and stressful for him. . . . He was pleased and very relieved that the matter has been settled,” said Adair, adding that the deal was reached after a mediation session between the two sides in early August.
Adair said terms of the settlement couldn’t be disclosed.
“Obviously, we consider it fair and equitable, or we wouldn’t have agreed to it,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, reports started coming out that the settlement was in jeopardy, but Adair later confirmed that it was “binding on all parties.”
Neither Moore’s lawyer Tim Danson nor Alan D’Silva — a lawyer who represents Canucks Sports and Entertainment — returned several messages seeking comment.
- The National Post's Sean Fitz-Gerald focused upon the non-disclosure part of the suit's resolution, as well as the suit's status as a "teaching tool" in schools of law;
- The New York Times' Jeff Z. Klein summarized the suit;
- ESPN's Katie Strang confirmed that the suit is officially settled and that the "setbacks" have been overcome;
- The CBC's Michael Drapack suggested that Tim Danson's decision to decline comment indicates that the suit is not settled, and the CBC surveyed the social media reaction to the news, and the CBC also posted a list of "key dates";
- The Globe and Mail's Gary Mason did nothing less than suggest that the case should have gone to trial to unveil the "unseemly underbelly" of the NHL's "culture of violence," and when someone describes Markus Naslund as a "gentle Swede," let's just say you might be reading a little editorializing;
- The Denver Post's Mike Chambers posted what I'm sure will be the first of a series of articles about the incident. I get the feeling that the Denver Post, Toronto Star and Toronto Sun will push very hard to get Moore to speak with them, even if he can't address the settlement directly;
- The Vancouver Province posted the Canadian Press's article, a video about the settlement, and Ben Kuzma suggested that Canucks fans will never know what role Marc Crawford played in the incident. Crawford had this to say to Kuzma:
“I will reflect on it but until everything is done I can’t say a word,” said Crawford when reached Tuesday morning in Switzerland. “I have never commented on anything and I’m not going to because that’s the way it has to be. That’s just how I carry myself. I hope it gets resolved and that would be the best thing for everybody. Everybody needs to move forward and I would hope that happens. But until it does, I’m not saying anything.”
What Crawford can talk about is what Bertuzzi may have left in the tank as a 39-year-old unrestricted free agent with chronic back problems. The Canucks have no interest in bringing Bertuzzi back, but what about a team willing to gamble on a low-risk, one-year deal?
He had just nine goals and 16 points in 59 games with the Detroit Red Wings last season. And while he did have 46 goals and 97 points on the famed West Coast Express line in the 2002-03 season, Bertuzzi has never had more than three postseason goals. Today’s game is also predicated more on speed and skill than his famous, one-handed, bull-like rushes to the net.
“He has a pretty amazing set of hands — he really does,” argued Crawford. “A pretty amazing talent set. I definitely think it (a contract) is possible. I’m always hopeful that people are able to extend their careers.”
I've seen enough of Bertuzzi over the past two seasons to tell you that his back has deteriorated to the point that he probably can't make it through a full season any more. He battles nerve damage and referred pain into his legs and feet, and when you can't get around on the ice over the long haul, especially when you've become a "power checker," you're done.
- The Vancouver Sun posted a summary of the settlement, Iain MacIntyre posited a...Unique...take on the incident, a timeline, MacIntyre's video comments and a video in which, "Rotman School of Management's Richard C. Powers, an expert in the business of sports," discusses the settlement;
- And if we're going to talk about the "culture of violence" in sport, the Windsor Star's Bob Duff is as good a person as any to "take us out," because he reminds us that the Bertuzzi-Moore incident was anything but the first instance in which hockey--or sports'--culture of violence reared its ugly head:
Naturally, with both sides reaching an agreement, no one is talking. And the NHL is delighted. How does the NHL spell relief? Confidentiality agreement.
The last thing the league wants is its seedy underbelly being exposed while players are under oath in a courtroom. It’s happened before, and the outcome wasn’t pretty.
In a 1969 pre-season game played in Ottawa, Boston’s Ted Green and Wayne Maki of St. Louis engaged in a terrifying stick-swinging duel that left Green with a fractured skull. Five hours of surgery were required to save his life. Ottawa police charged both players with assault and the case went to trial. Maki testified that fighting and stick-swinging episodes were an accepted part of the game.
“You can’t let anyone push you around,” Maki said.
Green took things even further with an analogy that while politically incorrect, was sadly accurate then and now about the state of the game.
“Certainly on our club, I don’t think there are too many guys who wear lace panties out there,” Green said.
It was embarrassing for the league, but not so embarrassing that they sought change.
That’s why the NHL is thrilled there’s a settlement in the Moore-Bertuzzi case. Hockey prefers to keep its dirty laundry stored in the bin, as opposed to having it aired out in public, because the odour it emanates is pungent.
I guess this is where the "Hockey Violence Critic" is going to come out in a place I didn't want to come out (if you haven't noticed by now, I do little to no pre-writing, I just riff, I feel that you get my authentic voice that way and I've never been much of a pre-planner writing-wise):
If we're going to talk about the NHL's "concussion problem," the Radko Gudas-on-Johan Franzen and Jared Cowen-on-Pavel Datsyuk forearm shivers, the Kyle Quincey-on-Ryan Getzlaf hit whose reaction on 24/7 ("It was only 5 because he went down") by Quincey made me lose respect for KQ, the broken legs and heels when players are slid into the boards, the busted knee ligaments, broken wrists from stupid slashes, any and all of the injuries that occur when players are hurt simply because their opponents insist they have to "finish their checks"...
Change has to come from the top on down.
Owners have to tell their general managers to stop signing John Scotts. General managers have to tell their coaches that stupid, needless checks and fights are indeed STUPID and NEEDLESS. Coaches have to repeat those words, and coaches have to stop telling players in every practice that they must, must, must finish their checks, even if doing so has no bearing on what checking is supposed to do--separate players from pucks--and coaches have to bench players who take idiotic penalties (or are not penalized) for the sake of "sending messages" that don't need to be sent. Players need to police each other, too, and the, "You can't do that" line has to be issued by teammates as well as referees.
It's got to come from the top down, it's got to be systematic and it's got to be consistent. If professional sports teams wanted to discourage needless violence and stupid, injury-inducing plays, whether we're talking about football, hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer, rugby, whatever, they could do it, but it would take the kind of resolve and unanimity of voice that teams in competition with each other will never, ever utilize, because there are always going to be owners, general managers, coaches and players who believe that winning "by any means necessary" equals justifiable grounds for going out to intentionally hurt opponents.
Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore learned the hard way that such thinking can result in horrific injuries that are life-changing, criminal, heinous and worthy of nothing less than disgust...
Even though we must also remember that those who commit these acts are human beings.
Todd Bertuzzi did the best he could to redeem himself, now he, the Canucks and the NHL are finally going to give Steve Moore his long-overdue financial compensation, and those of us who believe that, slowly but surely, the NHL must use the payday it just made as a catalyst to decrease the level of disrespect between owners, general mangers, coaches and players when the puck is dropped...
We can hope for the best and call spades spades when "our" players do stupid things.
Todd Bertuzzi did something incredibly stupid, and he's going to pay for it.
Now I hope that he and Steve Moore can move on.
The rest of us have to try to be bigger and better human beings by understanding that Bertuzzi is no monster, no more than the John Scotts of the world, but we must also remember that we cannot tolerate or endorse sporting or in-real-life behavior that needlessly and unjustifiably places the life and limb of one's opponents, one's fellow human beings, at risk.
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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.