Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely on March 8, 2004, for a blind-side punch that seirously injured Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore.
(CP) -- The NHL has reinstated Todd Bertuzzi, saying the Vancouver Canuck forward has suffered enough for his sucker punch on Steve Moore, a decision Moore finds disappointing.
In announcing his decision Monday, commissioner Gary Bettman said Bertuzzi is "immediately eligible" to begin playing hockey.In a 4,500-word ruling, Bettman said he believes Bertuzzi "is genuinely remorseful and apologetic for his actions ... and the consequences that have flowed from such actions."But Tim Danson, the lawyer representing Moore, said the former Colorado Avalanche player still doesn't know if he will ever be able to play hockey again."He is quite disappointed, given he is unable to resume his NHL career and may never resume his NHL career," Danson said in an interview."It's disappointing to him that Mr. Bertuzzi is able to resume his career at this particular time. Steve has an uncertain future. He's got health challenges to deal with."While he maintains a very positive attitude ... at this point he really is in the hands of doctors who will have to make the determination whether or not he will be able to play again."Danson also denied published reports in a Toronto newspaper that a doctor has given medical clearance for Moore to play hockey again.Bertuzzi was given an indefinite suspension for his March 8, 2004, sucker punch which resulted in Moore suffering a broken neck, cuts and a concussion.Bettman said the 17 months Bertuzzi has been unable to play hockey cost him both financially and emotionally."After listening to Mr. Bertuzzi and his wife Julie Bertuzzi, I have no doubt that this period of indefinite suspension has been mark by uncertainty, anxiety, stress and emotional pain for the Bertuzzi family," he said.But he warned Bertuzzi that he was "on probation" for the 2005-06 season."Mr. Bertuzzi is on notice that he will be held strictly accountable to a higher standard than other NHL players for his on ice conduct during the 2005-06 season," he said.Bertuzzi was suspended for the remaining 13 regular season games of the 2003 04 season and the playoffs, which lasted only seven games for Vancouver after the Canucks lost to Calgary in the first round.Bertuzzi's suspension also cost him a chance for play for Canada in the September 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the May 2005 IIHF world hockey championship. The IIHF respected the NHL's suspension and wouldn't let him play in Europe during the lockout.The suspension cost Bertuzzi $501,926.39 US in salary. Bettman said Bertuzzi told him he had also lost another $350,000 in endorsements.Hockey Canada has already sent a request to the Canucks that Bertuzzi be available for a Team Canada Olympic training camp next week in Vancouver and Kelowna."I'm glad the NHL has finally stepped in and put him back in the game and reinstated him," Wayne Gretzky, Team Canada's executive director, told TSN in an interview. "Nobody condones what Todd did. I'm sure he'd be the first one to tell you it was a mistake."But you know it's time to move forward. We will invite him to our training camp. He's an elite player and I expect him to have a great year and be part of Team Canada come February in Italy."Canuck GM Dave Nonis said he spoke briefly with Bertuzzi."He was in good spirits and was very relieved," Nonis said."It's a decision he hoped he would receive and I think he's going to have a very good rest of the week."In December in Vancouver, Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm and received a conditional discharge. He was sentenced to a year's probation and 80 hours of community service.Part of that probation was that Bertuzzi not play hockey or engage "in any other sporting activity involving Mr. Moore as a participant.""Subject to the continuing terms of the conditional discharge in Mr. Bertuzzi's criminal case and the `probationary period' which this decision imposes, Mr. Bertuzzi is immediately eligible for reinstatement for play in the NHL," Bettman said.Asked about Moore's health, Danson said Moore has improved to the point where he is attempting to train."He's trying to get back to where he was," Danson said Monday prior to the announcement. "There's challenges, He's moving along.""He is determined to make a full recovery and resume his NHL career," Danson added. "However he has suffered very serious injuries and a serious head injury. He has to defer to the experts with respect to where he goes from here. Even if you make a full recovery by appearances, concussion injuries are a different kind of injury."Moore has filed a civil suit in Denver naming Bertuzzi, former Canucks forward Brad May, Canucks coach Marc Crawford, former GM Brian Burke and Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, which owns the team.Bettman's decision was released the same day that Gretzky announced he was taking over as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.The commissioner said he believed Bertuzzi "has paid a very significant price for his conduct on March 8, 2004." "I anticipate that there will be those who will say that Mr. Bertuzzi's 17-month suspension is inadequate, and not proportionate to suspensions imposed on other players for conduct that may be considered `less severe' than Mr. Bertuzzi's actions because of the work stoppage that wiped out the entire 2004-05 NHL season," said Bettman. "I disagree."In light of the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2004-05 season, it is appropriate to consider not only the significant impact the suspension has had on Mr. Bertuzzi's NHL career, but also the impact that the league's suspension has had on Mr. Bertuzzi's ability to play professional hockey anywhere during this time, as well as the financial, criminal, civil and emotional consequences he has endured as a result of his conduct on March 8, 2004."Danson, meanwhile, said prior to the league announcement that Moore had undergone a comprehensive medical evaluation at the Cleveland Clinic in June. A follow-up examine is being conducted this week.The results of that examination won't be known until at least the end of the month.