- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

TORONTO — Todd Bertuzzi’s season is over after he was suspended yesterday by an NHL intent on sending the message it won’t tolerate premeditated attacks on the ice.

The Vancouver Canucks’ All-Star forward will lose at least $500,000 in salary and could miss more time next season for the vicious punch that sent Colorado’s Steve Moore to the hospital with a broken neck, concussion and other injuries.

The Canucks were fined $250,000 for the attack, which is being investigated by police.

“This is not a part of our game, it has no place in our game, and it will not be tolerated in our game,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

He called the punishment “stern, harsh and quick.” And he hopes the severity will stem the criticism leveled at the league since Bertuzzi slugged and jumped Moore from behind, driving him headfirst into the ice late in a 9-2 loss to Colorado on Monday.

The attack appeared to be payback for Moore’s Feb.16 hit on Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who got a concussion and missed three games. Both teams were warned by the league not to retaliate.

Bertuzzi’s punch was replayed on TV stations across the United States and Canada, and he and the league were condemned in newspapers in both countries, including a headline in the Toronto Star that read: “Does someone have to die?”

“I think we will ultimately be judged on our response and the message that it sends,” Bettman said.

Moore, lost for the season, has deep cuts on his face and two broken vertebra, but his spinal cord was not injured. He is in stable condition in a Vancouver hospital.

“I’m convinced the league was careful to take into account all the elements and acted with a clear sense of what was fair for all parties involved,” Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said. “Steve Moore’s complete recovery continues to be our main concern.”

Canucks GM Brian Burke was surprised by the team’s fine, saying the NHL shouldn’t blame Vancouver and coach Marc Crawford for what happened.

“The line got crossed here,” Burke said, referring to Bertuzzi’s attack. “We’re not condoning what Todd did. We’re not expecting to walk out of here without a penalty. We understand this incident is not part of the game, and Todd understands that.”

The suspension could end up being one of the harshest in NHL history, depending on how deep the Canucks go in the playoffs and whether Bettman determines to extend it next season.

Bertuzzi, who sat out Vancouver’s 1-1 tie against Minnesota on Wednesday, would miss a minimum 17 games this year if the Canucks — fourth in the Western Conference — make the playoffs and are swept in a four-game first-round series.

The record for a suspension is 23 games for Boston’s Marty McSorley in February 2000 and Tampa Bay’s Gordie Dwyer in September 2000.

Bertuzzi — one of the league’s top power forwards — finished third in the NHL in scoring last season and ranks second on the Canucks this season with 17 goals and 43 assists.

“It’s severe,” NHL vice president Colin Campbell said in issuing his ruling. “We dealt with Todd Bertuzzi like we would any other player in this situation. Because Todd Bertuzzi is the impact player he is, the ramifications and severity of this will definitely affect and hurt the Vancouver Canucks’ chances of being successful in the playoffs.”

In fining the Canucks, Campbell ruled that while the organization did not encourage or condone Bertuzzi’s action, the franchise must accept some responsibility.

Bertuzzi issued a teary apology Wednesday night, but he did not want to speak publicly after the suspension was announced.

“These comments are for Steve. I had no intention of hurting you,” Bertuzzi said Wednesday. “I feel awful for what transpired.”

B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman and Vancouver police are investigating the punch, the second time in four years police have looked into an on-ice hit at an NHL game in the city.

Vancouver police spokeswoman Constable Sarah Bloor said investigators have interviewed Moore, and a decision on whether to charge Bertuzzi could take as long as two months.

In 2000, McSorley was charged with hitting Canucks player Donald Brashear with his stick. McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon, but he received an 18-month conditional discharge, meaning no jail time and no criminal record after probation.

The NHL suspended him for a year, ending his 17-year career.

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