- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004


In hockey, you can beat a guy until he’s bleeding, swollen and in serious need of stitches. Your punishment? Two minutes in the penalty box. But if one of those punches causes a player to lose more than simply blood and teeth, the penalty gets harsher. Just ask Todd Bertuzzi, who was suspended for the rest of the season yesterday after one of his punches landed a little too hard.

Come on, Todd. You’ve been around the league long enough to know the rules. You should have injured Colorado’s Steve Moore just enough for him to miss a few games. A nice little concussion and maybe a few stitches.

Is violence in hockey OK? The NHL’s official policy is “sometimes.”

Philadelphia general manager Bob Clarke tried to explain this policy after his players racked up 213 of the 419 penalty minutes in last week’s game turned massive brawl between the Flyers and Ottawa Senators.

“I understand Rob Ray fighting Donald Brashear. That’s OK. Even Mark Recchi and Patrick Sharp, they can fight. But don’t go after guys who don’t know how to defend themselves,” Clarke said.

Thanks, that clears it up. Anyone can beat up the tough guys. Hey, that’s what they’re there for. Just as long as it’s not Steve Moore, who doesn’t know how to fight, aside from that one incident a few weeks ago when he delivered a nasty hit to Markus Naslund.

But Moore followed the “rules.” Naslund missed only three games with a concussion, so no harm done.

All 20 players involved in the Senators-Flyers melee March5 followed the rules, too. They beat each other senseless and set an NHL record for penalty minutes. It took officials 90 minutes to figure out all the penalties and who knows how long to clean up the blood.

Of course, all 20 of those players are back in action, and not one missed more than a game or two. Maybe the NHL would have liked to suspend those players for the rest of the season, but then they would have to eliminate almost two whole teams. And it’s playoff time, you know, and Ottawa is looking pretty good.

Bertuzzi should have delivered his sucker punch during that brawl. Then he would be getting ready for the playoffs, just like everyone else.

According to Donald Brashear, violence is just part of the game. Except for that one time when Marty McSorley hit him in the head with a stick. Other than that, violence is just part of the game.

“It’s ridiculous because [Bertuzzi] got him good and hurt him,” Brashear said. “But I probably would have done the same thing. I don’t know if I would have hurt him that bad. I might have done it a different way and let the guy know I was coming.”

Maybe that was Bertuzzi’s big mistake. If only he had sent Moore a little memo, he could have beaten him into a bloody pulp, then taken a breather in the penalty box.

“The general public likes that kind of stuff,” Brashear said. “They love physical stuff. They love fighting.”

Yeah, it’s great, it’s entertaining. (Except when you do it, McSorley. Then we’re throwing you out of the game.)

“You hit a guy with a stick, it’s different,” Brashear said.

That’s probably the best explanation Todd Bertuzzi will get for the fact that he’s not allowed to play for the rest of the year and maybe even longer. His punch was just “different.”

The problem with the NHL is that it really doesn’t consider the violence. It considers the injury, the reaction, the aftermath.

Bertuzzi’s actions are not being judged here. If Moore had landed differently, he would have gotten a bloody nose and Bertuzzi would have gotten — at most — a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct.

Instead, Bertuzzi has ruined his career. Or at least severely tarnished it. You just can’t throw that kind of punch and expect to be a part of the morally upstanding NHL.

“Steve, I just want to apologize for what happened out there,” Bertuzzi said Tuesday. “But I had no intention on hurting you. And I feel awful for what transpired.”

That’s too bad, Todd. You have to pay the consequences for breaking the rules, whatever they are.

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