We are officially at the one month mark before my favorite team hits the ice in the first home game of the season, so I think it high time that I add a hockey post. It is also appropriate because there has been a lot of hockey-related news of late.
Death of Bob Suter
I want to start by officially acknowledging the death of Bob Suter, a member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic gold medal hockey team. Suter died yesterday, September 9, 2014 of a heart attack at the age of 57.
Prior to becoming part of the young and inexperienced Team USA, Suter was a star player for the University of Wisconsin, playing from 1975-1979. At 5′ 10″ and 170 pounds, Suter was by no stretch of the imagination the biggest of hockey players but he was credited by his teammates as always being tough and ready to deliver a hit. When he left the University of Wisconsin in 1979, he held the school record for penalty minutes. Despite such a record, he was remembered off-the-ice as a kind, humble, and soft-spoken man.
Suter did not actually play in the famed game against the Soviets on February 22, 1980. A few short weeks before the Olympics began, Suter broke his ankle, and while he was able to make an amazing comeback and play in the games, Coach Herb Brooks did not feel that he was still back at his best level. Knowing that he needed 110% from all his players if Team USA was going to beat the older, faster, more experienced, and quite honestly – professional – Soviet team, Suter was benched, though he played in several of the other key games of the Olympics.
Bob Suter was also father of Ryan Suter, a highly skilled player in his own right who currently plays for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. Suter is the first player of the 1980 team to pass away. Coach Herb Brooks died in an auto accident in August, 2003.
Two Arrested in Connection with Drug Overdose Death of Derek Boogaard
While the issue of fighting in the hockey remains a hot topic with strong opinions on both sides, the role of “The Enforcer” certainly has a page in the history of the sport, and Derek Boogaard certainly was among the toughest and the strongest of the NHL’s enforcers.
Boogaard died on May 13, 2011 in Minnesota. While Boogaard was a New York Ranger, he had until the previous season played for the Minnesota Wild and still had an apartment there. Like most players whose true skills lies in their ability to protect their team’s top players and seek revenge on those who attempt to cause them harm, Boogaard had suffered repeated injuries. From broken bones and noses, to knocked out teeth, stitches, and concussions, Boogaard lived in almost constant pain. Addicted to prescription pain killers, in 2009 he entered the NHL’s substance abuse program. Like most who suffer from addiction however, it takes more than one round of rehab to kick the habit, and Boogaard was no different. He relapsed, and that relapse ultimately led to the fatal combination of alcohol and pain killers on that May night in 2011.
Jordan Hart, son of former NHL’er Gerry Hart, is accused of providing the oxycodone on which Boogaard overdosed. Oscar Johnson, a former Physician’s Assistant who worked with Hart when he was with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, is accused of writing prescriptions for painkillers for Boogaard despite not examining him.
An autopsy on Boogaard after he died showed he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a brain disease brought on by repeated blows to the head. With so much attention being given to the risks associated with concussions these days, Boogaard’s issues just stand to reinforce those dangers.
Steve Moore Lawsuit Against Todd Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks Settled
Steve Moore was a promising young forward with Colorado Avalanche in 2004. On the night of March 8, 2004, in what was already a particularly rough and aggressive game with the Vancouver Canucks, Moore saw his dreams of a future in the NHL, quite literally, crushed.
The Canucks already had issues with Moore. In a game just three weeks prior in Colorado, Moore delivered a hard check to Canucks captain Markus Naslund. Members of the Canucks felt that the hit was dirty and went unpunished. Somewhere within the Canucks organization (it is a subject of debate if it was at team level or higher up in management) the decision was made to target Moore and make him pay for the hit. When the two teams met again on March 8th, the stage was set.
Throughout the game, Canucks players harassed Moore, attempting to incite him to fight. Moore, aware that he was persona non grata in Vancouver, refused to rise to the bait. At 11:39 in the third period Sean Pronger again began to hit and push on Moore. Moore still refuses to rise to the challenge. Then, at 11:25, Todd Bertuzzi picks up right where Pronger left off by grabbing Moore’s jersey. When Moore again ignores the challenge, and with his back to Bertuzzi, Bertuzzi sucker punches Moore in the back of the head. This was no subtle “jab you and see if I get away with it,” this was a full on, closed fist punch to the back of another players head. Moore went down and Bertuzzi and several other players dog-piled on Moore. A flurry of other fights broke out on the ice as well. Within a very short period of time however, it was very evident that Steve Moore was badly hurt. He was face down on the ice, not moving, and athletic trainers who responded quickly signaled that they needed doctors on the ice.
Steve Moore suffered three broken vertebrae that night as well as a concussion. Despite his best attempts to rehabilitate and return to the game, he was never able to – a young man’s dream ended forever.
For Bertuzzi, he plead guilty to criminal assault causing bodily injury. He received one year probation, 80 hours of community service, and a 15-month suspension from the NHL. Considering that he continued to play in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings until last year, I think he made out pretty well. While I believe his tearful apology the day after the incident was sincere, it was too late, the damage was done. All over a perceived wrong in a past game.
In his lawsuit, Moore asked Canadian courts to award him $68 million dollars. This was to compensate for lost future earnings, medical expenses, and pain and suffering caused by Bertuzzi’s hit. Not only was Bertuzzi named, but also the Canucks organization and upper management. The amount of the final agreement was not disclosed and I am sure that both sides agreed as part of the deal to not disclose it. Does that mean we will never know? Maybe, but somehow these things always seem to find their way into the light, so only time will tell.