"Boys will be boys." "Let them play." "It's all part of the game." So many sayings to excuse socially accepted misgivings; sayings we, as Canadians, often use when it comes to our unofficial national sport--hockey.
However, an incident which occurred Mon., Mar. 8 cannot be dismissed, overlooked or understated.
In a National Hockey League game against the Colorado Avalanche, hulking Vancouver Canucks star Todd Bertuzzi viciously attacked Avs forward Steve Moore in retribution for a hit Moore laid on Canucks captain Markus Naslund a few weeks earlier--a hit that left Naslund concussed and forced him to miss three games. Late in a lopsided game, Bertuzzi blindsided Moore: he grabbed his jersey, sucker-punched him in the side of the head and then drove him, face first, into the ice. Once on the ice, Bertuzzi punched the motionless Moore a couple more times before Moore's teammates jumped Bertuzzi, setting off a full line brawl.
Moore is now in hospital with a broken jaw, a fractured neck and a concussion.
I first saw the Bertuzzi highlight with a few friends and it immediately led to discussion and debate over what his punishment should be. With an attack this vicious and brutal, inevitable comparaisons are drawn. Kyle McLaren's clothesline on Richard Zednik and Marty McSorley clubbing Donald Brashear in the head with his stick are the two most recent.
At first, my reaction was that it fell somewhere between the McSorley and McLaren incidents.
Now, two days later, I have a different opinion.
In my mind, this attack is grievously worse than either incident for one reason: premeditation.
Todd Bertuzzi may have acted out of frustration, as his team was getting their asses handed to them. He may have acted out of emotion, not thinking clearly. But the fact of the matter is, he sought out Moore specifically and vented his anger and frustration on him.
This is where the line was crossed.
With McSorley, there was no significant recent history between him and Brashear. With McLaren, it was a dirty--but split second--decision made when Zednik deked him out. With Bertuzzi, there was forethought, and there was ruthlessness in the execution of the attack.
Shaking your head? Don't believe there was premeditation? Comments made by Canucks forward Brad May after Moore's initial hit on Naslund might change your mind.
"There's definitely a bounty on his head. Clean hit or not, that's our best player, and you respond.
"It's going to be fun when we get him."
The league disciplinary office is obviously investigating the matter. More importantly, so is the Vancouver Police Service. Many a purist will kick and scream saying the courts have no place in hockey and, generally, they're right. However, aggravated assault has no place in hockey either.
After seeing the Bertuzzi attack repeatedly over the last couple of days (and I will undoubtedly be seeing it even more in the coming weeks), I support the criminal investigation. Hockey is a rough game, but it is a game which must be respected and played with respect.
Bertuzzi did neither and now he will face the music.