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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi: seven years later

As the NHL and its fans (including former star player and current Pittsburgh owner Mario Lemieux) debate how to properly police the game in the aftermath of recent in-game brawls, how can we not think back to a terrible night in Vancouver?

In early March, it will be seven years since the awful on-ice “incident” that left NHL player Steve Moore severely injured and without a professional future in hockey.

NHL fans know what happened that night, when Vancouver forward Todd Bertuzzi’s actions spoke glaringly for themselves.

As people talk about Lemieux and his alleged “hypocrisy” in criticizing the league for not handling the recent Islander-Penguin brawl better (when his team employs a player of the ilk of Matt Cooke), it would seem the hypocrisy actually runs much, much deeper.

It rests with the attitude, forever in evidence in hockey, that the game has to be played by “tough guys”.

In an interview with the Toronto Sun just over a year ago, ex-NHL’er Nick Kypreos spoke about an on-ice incident in a junior hockey game. He was quoted as saying,

“I’m not proud to say it, but I felt like if I could kill somebody with a legal check, I would do it,” Kypreos said, reflecting on his career during a discussion on vicious bodychecking — whether clean or illegal — on The Fan 590.

“That’s how much emotion, and outside the norm (of society that a hockey player) can get ... there is no rhyme or reason.

“I have been out there and looked at another guy’s eyes and I thought ‘I could kill you.’ ”

“Bodychecking is so much more than just getting the puck,” Kypreos said in an interview following the Hockey Central broadcast.

“It can involve drawing some emotions that you’re not proud of.”

What causes this mentality? Is it the ‘macho’ reality? Payback—revenge for some earlier dirty play by the other team?

That seems to have been the genesis of the Islander/Penguins dust-up.

But I keep going back to that night in Vancouver seven years ago. In a moment, Steve Moore loses his entire hockey future. For his part, Bertuzzi receives a relative slap on the wrist. He is still playing—and earning millions.

Meanwhile, the NHL bobs and weaves between appealing to us, the masses, and our apparent desire for a continuation of hockey violence—and doing the right thing.

How can we change the "culture" of the game?  Do people really want to?

Meanwhile, we have temporary outrage.  A superstar owner speaks out.

But the hockey world wants to forget an awful incident seven years ago. The star still makes his millions while the “other guy”, a player who was never a “star”, never plays again.

And we talk about hypocrisy….and wonder if we are setting a good example for our youth?

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