by Ron Spence
If they ever do a movie on Terry Frei’s life, I am sure that Mel Gibson will play his character.
The Denver writer is obsessed with the Steve Moore attack.
His obsession is interesting – to me – because I sat two seats away from him during the March 8, 2004 game, and was as confused as he was when Bertuzzi bashed Moore.
But, his confusion has devolved into obsession.
To follow Mr. Frei’s focus – over the past five years – has been as surreal as the attack and its immediate aftermath.
He now has a conspiracy theory about Brad May with Brian Burke in Toronto: “You wonder why they’re joined at the hip, don’t you?”
And he’s not happy with the two captains.
He says of the ‘nucks’ captain: “One of those with the power to head this off was Canucks captain Markus Naslund….”
He says of the Av’s captain: “Joe Sakic’s subsequent chumminess with Bertuzzi is the one blot on his captaincy.”
And Marc Crawford? “…I know and like Crawford and accept that he’s the walking representation of a mind-set, as much or even more so than Bertuzzi, that, well, is what it is.”
What Mr. Frei still doesn’t understand is: “[The attack] is what it is.”
It was a senseless act of brutality – nothing more, nothing less.
RECALLING THE ATTACK ON STEVE MOORE
Terry Frei – March 9, 2009
“I’m typing this on the fifth anniversary of Steve Moore’s final game in the NHL.
I’ve often been asked what I thought that night when I saw the Canucks’ Todd Bertuzzi attack Moore in the third period of Colorado’s 9-2 romp at General Motors Place.
Truth is, I didn’t see it. Not live.
As happens at any games on the West Coast, and especially one in which the outcome is assured, I was writing the game story and not relentlessly watching what was happening on the ice.
Soon, of course, I saw what had taken place.
The rest of the game, and the postgame atmosphere, were as surreal and subdued as anything I’ve ever covered.
Five years later, I’m still convinced this wouldn’t have happened if one of two men could had stepped in and said, “OK, boys, enough,” whether during the three-week-long buildup or even on that night.
One of those with the power to head this off was Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who suffered a concussion when taking the initial open-ice, unpenalized hit from Moore on Feb. 16.
The other was Vancouver general manager Brian Burke.
Coach Marc Crawford? Sure, that would have worked, too, but I know and like Crawford and accept that he’s the walking representation of a mind-set, as much or even more so than Bertuzzi, that, well, is what it is.
Bertuzzi did not choose between the Johns Hopkins medical school and the NHL. I detest the man, but to a point, he also was a dupe.
It would have taken Burke or Naslund to step in and say that as much as this one-for-all concept is praiseworthy, it goes too far when it’s distracting and it’s also counterproductive when — as in this case — it ruins the Canucks as a team.
Also, this team concept that allegedly led to all of this is a complete contradiction to the Avalanche’s response.
Even before the roster changed over, Moore’s teammates forgot him in about 12 hours. Joe Sakic’s subsequent chumminess with Bertuzzi is the one blot on his captaincy, although I do have to say he was so cavalier about it, he honestly was taken aback to find out that many were offended. The organization never has had the gumption to tell NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the Canucks to shut up, they’re holding a night for Moore.
As Moore’s lawsuit against Bertuzzi remains pending in the Ontario courts, the hardest thing to believe about it all is that five years have passed.
on March 9, 2009
“Whenever I write about Todd Bertuzzi’s March 8, 2004, attack on Steve Moore, plus the aftermath and the issues tied to it all, the reaction is fairly predictable. It was no different today, when my column remarking on the fifth anniversary — available here — ran.
The responses, and not to just this specific column, have run the gamut.
At one extreme, it’s variations of:
a) Moore, a “Harvard boy,” after all, had it coming.
b) Bertuzzi just gave him a little punch with a gloved hand and the Avs overreacted, including when piling on to rescue him and then having the nerve to say he had fractured neck vertebrae because a “broken neck” sounds as if he was paralyzed or something! (A sportswriter I like and have been friends with for 30 years actually holds this view.).
c) What do you think this is, “Dancing with the Stars?”
d) It has been years. Can you leave it alone?
At the other end of the spectrum are those who help prove, among other things, that the Avalanche organization’s lack of acknowledgment of Moore rankles many Avalanche loyalists. Or former loyalists. The Avalanche organization has, and will again, emphasize that it was in close contact with the Moore family in the aftermath and aided Steve in ways it didn’t brag about, and that the family even told the team how much it appreciated all that.
That part is true.
But since, as Moore’s lawsuit crept through the Ontario courts, there has been nothing.
The NHL wouldn’t be thrilled with a team honoring a former player suing another NHL team, but so what? And it’s not just about a night. It’s the attitude that the guy doesn’t even exist.
I was not as critical as some about the Avalanche signing of Brad May. I regret that. I should have been, and I came to be. And now it’s hilarious that May again is with GM Brian Burke at Toronto.
What a coincidence. You wonder why they’re joined at the hip, don’t you?
I’m still of the opinion, as most are, that the case never will go to trial. The league and the sport’s culture would be on trial. The league won’t, and can’t let that happen.
I’m on record as being ambivalent about Moore suing because of the implied consent concept: If you play the sport for a living, it’s reasonable to argue you’re leaving such matters of adjudication up to the league. But I’ve heard from others in response to that view that if somebody sucker punches you at your desk on the 37th floor of an office building and ends your working career, you’d just let your employer handle it?
So, yes, I still debate with myself on that one. I last visited Steve in Thornhill, Ontario, in August 2005. His situation hasn’t much changed since.
Finally, here are three points I didn’t have room for in the column this morning, and I admit they amount to random musing:
– I still think one of the most remarkable aspects of the attack was the Vancouver radio crew’s response. Play-by-play man John Shorthouse described it as it unfolded and immediately described it as a “cheap-shot sucker punch from behind.” Analyst Tom Larscheid, who played football at Utah State and in the CFL, immediately was disgusted, saying, “Oh, I hate that!” Larscheid is no shrinking violet: He was reacting to the cowardly “from behind” nature of the attack. Of course, if they had been working for Altitude on the Avalanche broadcast and the skates were on the other feet, they would have been fired immediately for their candor.
– As the McLeans’ cover shows (that’s Canada’s version of Time or Newsweek), intelligensia and mainstream folks in Canada saw this as reason for further examination of the NHL’s and North American pro game’s mindset and culture. Down here, of course, whenever anyone attempts to bring intelligence, reason, and common sense into these discussions, the cry goes up: “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE GAME! HEY, THERE ARE SOME GREAT HOCKEY FIGHT VIDEOS ON EBAY!!!!” These are the folks who refuse to acknowledge any gray areas in discussions, whether it’s about fighting in the NHL or anything else tied to the sport’s culture. That’s why it’s usually a complete waste of time trying to engage in dialogue with them.
– Despite that, to this day, I’m most amazed that so few seemed to have a problem with Bertuzzi’s selection to the 2006 Canadian Olympic team.
One promise: I will keep writing about this.”