This is a story on the back burner. Foods on the back burner tend to simmer and get heavy.
In the 2004 NHL season, Todd Bertuzzi, a player with Vancouver at the time, hit opponent Steve Moore in the back of the head during a game, crushing his face into the ice. The result was a broken neck and the end of Moore’s hockey career.
The hit was one of the most violent and seemingly blatant attracts in the game’s history.
Moore has sued Bertuzzi and the own-ers of the Vancouver team at the time in a civil suit for damages of $38 million. Ber-tuzzi has filed a motion with the Cana-dian court to add the name of then Van-couver coach Marc Crawford to the suit.
Moore claims in court documents that Crawford had written Moore’s name on a team chalk board prior to the game and used the term “price to pay” in a pre game talk.
Crawford says in reply documents that “Moore was not singled out as a player to be targeted for injury.” Crawford also says that just prior to Bertuzzi attacking Moore, coaches tried to get him off the ice.
Crawford says he had not “encouraged, condoned or reasonably anticipated” the attack.
The issue in the case is whether Moore assumed the risk of the injury that he received by taking to the ice in a game where he knew he might be a marked man for his earlier hit on a Vancouver player.
Moore says Bertuzzi’s act exceeded anything that could be considered an assumed risk in playing hockey, that Crawford helped instigate the attack with his pre game comments and that the Vancouver owners should be held re-sponsible for the acts of their employees-namely, Bertuzzi and Crawford.
The court will hear the motion to bring Crawford into the case in September.
At issue here is the unending question of how much violence is acceptable in the game of hockey and when do players cross the line, not just in terms of receiv-ing a penalty, but in becoming either criminally or civilly liable to injured par-ties.
Cases such as this bring a shudder to the NHL because they have the potential to change the very contours of the game.
The fact is the NHL and all of hockey believes that a degree of violence is “part of the game.” That part, in part, is selling tickets.
Players perpetuate some violence in the game when they say that matters need to be “settled on the ice.”
That means that a hit such as Moore’s on a player will be taken care of by a teammate either in that game or some-where down the line.
Moore’s positing in this case is that Bertuzzi’s act exceeded anything accept-able even if you accept the “settled on the ice” theory.
More important, Moore will also argue that the very concept of violence on the ice to settle matters is beyond any risk an NHL player takes or should take.
That brings the league into the matter in questioning whether it has acted rea-sonably to ensure the safety of players in the course of a game.
The case has dragged on, but it’s sim-mering on that back burner is drawing steam.