It’s time for me to date myself. Today I came to the realization that the current drivers of this site are the same age now as I was back then, 10 long years ago.
Let’s set the stage.
It was my fourth year at UBC; I was working on my thesis for my honours history B.A. I pretty much only took breaks for rugby practice, rugby games and watching hockey.
This was the year after the Canucks should have done far better than they did. But they didn’t – they had Dan Cloutier. I was always personally enjoyed his style, the way he battled, but that save percentage, oh that save percentage. It’s a noted story that Brian Burke’s biggest problem in talent identification has always been the goaltending position. He had one handed to him in Anaheim, but everywhere else it has proven to be a struggle.
It was in the following season that, while once again roaring along in the regular season, the Canucks had their captain targeted. Anger ensued, and threats were made.
Then, the game happened. The players had been talking endlessly about ‘making Moore pay’. Apparently they forgot there was a game to play.
Steve Moore decided to take on Matt Cooke. ‘That’s not the code’, everyone said. You have to go up against the biggest, meanest guy. Moore said, ‘no, I’m not an idiot. I’ll go with the guy who’s my size, thanks.’
We won’t go on with the code, because, well, it’s an awfully confusing concept. “Never pick on the little guy.” “Stand up for yourself.” “Don’t hit stars.” “We’ve got to stop him.” We get the point, it’s one big convoluted and hypocritical mess.
But back to the game on March 8th, 2004, which quickly devolved into a chaotic 5-0 rout. By early in the second period, I’d given up on watching. I had too much work to do that night.
Minutes later, I heard my roommates gasping, exclaiming. They called me back. I had to rush back and see what just happened, they said. Bertuzzi just destroyed Moore.
I returned to the living room to discover calamity unfolding on screen. There was blood on the ice. The replays made me sick. I remember it being too much to take in at the moment.
Everyone watching was numb. Had we just witnessed a man die on the ice?
I’d seen people get knocked out before; even back then, I knew catching one on the chin wasn’t good. I knew how big Bertuzzi was, how strong he was. I’d enjoyed watching him play the game. He was a force. He dominated the offensive zone with skill as much as brawn.
But this was something completely different. It went completely against what I wanted the game to be. You played hard. You skated hard. You scored beautiful goals, you scored hard-nosed goals. Sometimes things got feisty. I didn’t like fighting, but I completely understood why it happened.
This, I hated. Was this what the game was at its core? A rotten, ugly spectacle?
I went to bed numb. I woke up the next day still feeling awful. We knew by then that Steve Moore hadn’t died, but we also knew that he’d sustained a catastrophic injury. Would he play that season? ‘Probably not, but hopefully he’s healthy next season’. (Wait, what ‘next season’? -ed.)
I’m not an Avs fan by any means, but you never want to see someone, even a fringe player, get hurt like that.
Before, I’d demanded the NHL set a standard. Players playing on the edge of safety needed to be given a standard, a line you don’t cross. Moore had clobbered Naslund because the line was blurry; it was putting star players at risk. I hated the NHL for creating the first situation, which had lead to the second situation. Bertuzzi wasn’t a victim, but both he and Moore were pawns in the NHL risk-promotion.
Aggressive play. Lots of hits. Fights. That’s what the NHL wanted. Goals? Those can eventually take care of themselves.
Here we are, ten years later. Apparently the door’s been closed. Moore and Bertuzzi have finally agreed to what is without a doubt a massive settlement.
This is how personal injury litigation works. One person is deprived of their living. They have to prove their life has been irreparably altered. Whether you think that’s right doesn’t ultimately matter. That’s how the system that has been put in place works.
When you’re injured in a car wreck, you expect to receive compensation – a new car, compensation for lost wages while you were recuperating. If it’s a big enough injury, you’ll receive compensation for the alteration in your lifestyle. You may not be able to work in your old job.
It leaves a bad taste in our mouths because it’s such a colossal payout. Moore’s brother Dominic has had a heckuva career. And yet still, since 2006-07 Moore has made $8 million.
Is it possible Steve Moore would have played that long? Sure. Is it possible Moore, a Harvard grad, might then have gone on to a career in finance? Sure, ex-Canuck Nathan Lafayette did – he works in New York in insurance. Steve Moore probably would have made a lot of money, relatively speaking, in some capacity.
So, why did Bertuzzi keep playing? He’s 39, and has unquestionably been a shadow of himself for a while now. Why might he keep playing? Because he’s going to be paying for two careers – his and the one left undone.
I eventually came back to hockey. I begrudgingly accepted that although the game had plenty of warts, there were still plenty of great moments. The lockout the next season was awful. It reminded us what modern professional sport is. But then the game came back, and it looked ready to get rid of the chaos, to reward the skater and get all of that other nonsense out of the game.
There have been some shaky instances since then, sure, but we’ve also seen the rise of the Chicagos and LAs of the world. The game for there is about simply being better. The game still has its ugly moments, but it’s just in such a better place than it was those 10 long years ago.