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On This Date in Sports: Todd Bertuzzi's Cheap Shot

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

In one of the ugliest incidents in the history of the NHL Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks punches Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche from behind, leading to a career-ending injury. The Avalanche would win the game 9-3, as Todd Bertuzzi was suspended the rest of the season and throughout the following lockout. He also faced criminal charges, to which he pled guilty and received probation.

Todd Bertuzzi born February 2, 1975, in Sudbury, Ontario was a first-round pick by the New York Islanders in 1993. He made his debut with the Islanders in 1995 but was traded to the Vancouver Canucks three years later. With the Canucks, Todd Bertuzzi became a fan favorite and a leader who was one of the more respected players in the NHL. An incident like the one involving Steve Moore was highly out of the ordinary.

Steve Moore meanwhile was born September 22, 1978, in Windsor Ontario. Drafted in the second round by the Colorado Avalanche in 1998, Moore spent most of his career alternating between the AHL and the NHL and was well known as an enforcer. On February 16, 2004, Steve Moore had injured Canucks captain Markus Naslund casing him to miss three games with a concussion in a game won by Vancouver 1-0. The two teams had met on March 3rd, with Commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance and were played without incident, but Vancouver was clearly still miffed over the Naslund injury in a game that was played to a 5-5 tie.

Coming into the game at Vancouver’s General Motors Place, the Avalanche coached by Tony Granato had a record of 34-17-12-5 while the Canucks led by Marc Crawford were 36-20-8-4. The two teams were battling for playoff position and the top spot in the Northwest Division. The Avalanche buried the Canucks early, scoring five unanswered goals in the first period to take command. Vancouver scored twice in the second period, but it was clearly Colorado’s night as they held a 6-2 lead at the start of the third period and added two more to take an 8-2 lead. With the game out of reach, the Canucks focus shifted to getting revenge on Steve Moore for that February hit on Naslund. The hit that concussed the Canucks captain did not receive any penalty much to the chagrin of coach Marc Crawford and General Manager Brian Burke.

Steve Moore did not see much ice time until the game became a blowout at that point it became open season on the Avalanche enforcer. Earlier in the game, Moore had fought with Matt Cooke of the Canucks raising the concern of NHL official’s that there could be more retribution. Midway through the third period, with Steve Moore on the ice, the Canucks made their move. Moore did his best to avoid getting in a fight, but Todd Bertuzzi in full pursuit would not let him get away. Bertuzzi would grab Moore from behind and throw a blindside punch. The punch and force behind it knocked Steve Moore out as he landed Bertuzzi fell on top of him as the two began a line brawl.

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When the dust settled it was clear Steve Moore was hurt badly. A stretcher was brought out and Moore was removed from the ice as Todd Bertuzzi was accessed a match penalty. The play would get heavy airplay beyond the sports world as it came to symbolize the violence of hockey. Todd Bertuzzi was immediately suspended the rest of the season, as he faced criminal charges. The Avalanche would finish the season with a record of 40-22-13-7, while the Canucks finished 43-24-10-5. In the playoffs, the Vancouver was eliminated in seven games by the Calgary Flames, while the Avalanche made it to the second round before falling to the San Jose Sharks.

The entire 2004/05 season was wiped out due to a lockout, while other players went to play in Europe. Todd Bertuzzi, who faced criminal assault charges in British Columbia, was forced to remain on the sideline as the IIHF recognized the indefinite suspension that carried on during the work stoppage. Bertuzzi would get reinstated in time for the start of the 2005/06 season, as he was very apologetic for his actions as he pled guilty and received one-year probation for the on-ice incident.

Steve Moore never played again. The blow struck by Todd Bertuzzi caused great damage. Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a concussion, vertebral ligament and nerve drama, and facial fractures in addition to suffering from amnesia.  He would spend the next year in a neck brace, unable to continue his career. Steve Moore Due to the loss of earning power Moore would file a civil lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi and the Canucks organization. All lawsuits would be settled out of court with Moore receiving undisclosed compensation.