Mar 19th, 2004, 12:39 AM
My opinion, for what it's worth:
There's no question that the hit was deserving of the suspension handed out. There's no question that the hit was pre-meditated, to some extent, on Bertuzzi's part, and he should and will pay for it.
If you really want to point fingers, point to the NHL disciplinarians and the Vancouver Canucks organization in general. After Moore's hit on Naslund, Marc Crawford and Brian Burke were screaming bloody murder and calling for Moore's head, making it abundantly clear weeks before the Bertuzzi incident that the Canucks were out to get him. Brad May went so far as to openly place a "bounty" on Moore's head. To suggest that no one could have possibly seen something coming would be naive in the extreme.
Yet even after these public threats on an individual by an organization, the NHL powers that be did absolutely nothing. May wasn't even fined for his comments (Bettman would later talk about how comments alone aren't enough to be worthy of inquiry...but then, Bettman's an jackass anyway). Anyone who can tell me that no one had any idea what might transpire is an idiot.
So, despite these things, the Canucks and Avs play two more times. Once in Denver - nothing happens, a combination of the fact that it was a close game and the Canucks couldn't afford to take stupid penalties and that it was on Avs ice. They meet again in Vancouver, and the rout is on - by the time of the Bertuzzi hit, the Avs were leading 8-2. The game was no longer in doubt.
So, here's the situation: it's the third period, and the Nucks losing 8-2. There's no way they can come back and make a game of it at this stage, and its been a pretty violent game throughout. At this point, everyone in the building knows that there's only one thing a losing team tries to do in a situation like this - play as physically as possible, with no regard for dumb penalties, as a means of sending a message to the other team ("next time we meet, things are going to be a lot different" sort of thing).
What does Tony Granato, in all his wisdom, do in this situation? Why, he sends his most marked man, Steve Moore (who is hardly necessary for their success - he's a third-liner at best), out on to the ice without any "physical protection". In the conditions mentioned above. Granato knows what those conditions are - he's had a long NHL career of his own. Why did he do it? Don Cherry mentioned this the other night, and this is first time in a long time I've agreed with him on a serious issue.
Summary: Bertuzzi's attack on Moore was not a surprise. I'd compare it to Pearl Harbour in the sense that everyone with a scrap of intelligence knew it was coming - they just didn't know when or where (or in the case of hockey, who). No one took any pre-emptive action to nip it in the bud, and as a result blood was spilled. Bertuzzi is fully deserving of his suspension, but I would argue that a great deal of the blame lies with others, and unfortunately these "others" aren't going to be brought to account.