When Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter met with the press to discuss the Flames' latest acquisition, Todd Bertuzzi, he wasn't surprised the Steve Moore incident came up.
It was a simple question. Considering Bertuzzi ended the career of Moore with the infamous sucker-punch heard 'round the world back in March 2004, would Flames fans welcome the right winger to their city?
Sutter dismissed the idea and responded in kind.
"I had a traffic ticket three years ago. I hope there's three or four fans who can forget that I went through a red light."
It was a flippant response and a poor comparison and one would expect a more diplomatic answer from a member of one of hockey's first families.
When reviewing the tape, even now, it's painfully obvious Bertuzzi was out to hurt Moore. Granted, it's unlikely Bertuzzi wanted to end Moore's NHL career, but that's exactly what happened.
The sucker punch was revenge, pure and simple, payback for Moore's hit on Markus Naslund weeks earlier. Only, in this case, the consequences were a lot more serious. For Moore, it was the end of his livelihood.
A tearful apology by Bertuzzi days later did little to mend fences with Moore, his family, the league, or with fans of the game. He was forever branded a "bad boy," convicted of assault by Vancouver police (although he has no criminal record) and was suspended indefinitely by the NHL. To this day, a civil suit is still pending.
As for Steve Moore, he has never again strapped on the skates in the NHL. His cracked vertebrae have long since healed but the severe concussion prevents him from play. In an interview with the CBC in March of 2007, Moore said, “A lot of people talk about moving on. Well, I am trying to, but I haven't been able to."
"It's hard to think of everything that went into [my hockey career], and the way it was taken away. It is hard to see someone go back and play while you sit."
This is the aftermath of an unnecessary attack: disillusionment, depression, and doubt. It can not, and should not, be so easily dismissed.
That's exactly what Sutter has done, however.
It's likely there are a large number of Calgarians and hockey fans in general who aren't thrilled to have Bertuzzi playing with the Flames or in the league for that matter, no matter how apologetic he is for his actions or how long ago it happened. Time does not heal all wounds.
For Sutter to compare Bertuzzi's hit to his traffic infractions is idiotic at best, callous at worst. A frightening hit that left a man a former shell of himself is far more serious that burning a red light.
As a GM in the NHL signing a controversial player with a well-known back story, he should have expected that question from the press and he should have handled it with a lot more grace then he showed.
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