When Hell Freezes Over, I’ll Play Hockey There Too

Hockey is more than just a game.

It’s a passion, a dedication.

It draws you in and never lets go.

Hockey is love, hockey is life.

Hockey lives in our hearts.”

On June 19, 1980, a Northwest Orient flight departed Los Angeles International Airport on a non-stop flight to Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Michigan. Upon landing, the jetway was pushed up to the plane, the door opened, and the passengers disembarked. I was one of those passengers. I was two months shy of my 15th birthday. My life had changed.

Born and raised in Orange, California, I was a pretty typical middle-class kid in Orange County. I played little league and soccer, I was

The Plaza in Orange, California: my hometown. This park is in the center of intersection of Chapman and Glassell Streets and is the heart of downtown Orange.

The Plaza in Orange, California: my hometown. This park is in the center of the intersection of Chapman and Glassell Streets and is the heart of downtown Orange.

a cub scout, and I ran track for the Peralta Junior High School Patriots. We lived in a nice family-oriented neighborhood where there were lots of kids the same age. We rode our bikes all over our neighborhood and the neighborhoods that surrounded us. We went to

the beaches at Newport Beach and Corona del Mar, and sometimes my older sister took us to Seal Beach. In junior high I joined the ski club and we would go skiing in the mountains every other weekend or so.

The one thing that simply was not on the radar of this California kid: hockey. I had never been on ice skates; we had roller skates and skateboards. I had heard there was an ice rink at the Brea Mall, but I had never been there. Los Angeles had the Kings, but this was pre-Gretzky and to most of us “natives” they were a joke. They played a cold-weather sport in a warm-weather state. For myself and most of my friends it was not our thing. Also, they simply were not good. Who needed a losing hockey team? We had the L.A. Dodgers who regularly battled their way to the playoffs and the World Series. Nolan Ryan pitched for the Angels and Reggie Jackson left the Yankees to come hit home runs for us. We had the Rams. We had the Raiders and the Lakers. Saturday afternoons at our house consisted of college and professional football, baseball, and of course my dad’s beloved bowling. I still can vividly remember “Tips with Earl Anthony.”

Downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan looking east up Liberty Street toward State Street by the U-M campus.

Downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan looking east up Liberty Street toward State Street by the U-M campus.

On that June evening in 1980, the first pages of a new chapter in my life began to be written. My dad had accepted a new position with a company in Ann Arbor. While my parents were originally from Michigan, myself and my immediately older and younger brothers, the only three in my family actually born in California, were taken away from the only home we had ever known and found ourselves in this “foreign” land.

That summary of my youthful California may not seem to have anything to do with my love of hockey. In fact, it really only serves to highlight one thing: hockey was not my thing. What it shows is that my life was one thing in California, and would become something else in the Great Lake State.

Human beings are nothing if not adaptable. In the case of a 15-year-old relocated 2,500 miles from home, you adapt or you live in misery. In reality, for a teenager, it is actually a waffling back and forth between the two.  I was intrigued by my new state and where I lived in it. We lived in a country neighborhood that had dirt roads. We didn’t have dirt roads in Orange County, unless you counted

Dexter, Michigan. My

Dexter, Michigan. My “second” hometown.

the fire breaks that crisscrossed that hills around town. My high school, in the small town of Dexter, 4 miles west of Ann Arbor, offered agricultural classes as electives. Really? Bizarre. I took Livestock Production I and II, as well as a class in Forestry. I don’t think you would have found those offerings at Villa Park High. In Orange, our house, at the end of a cul-de-sac, had shopping centers on two sides. In Michigan we lived on a golf course and in the evening it was a great place to walk the dogs and explore. I still think that is the best use of a golf course!

At the same time, I missed my home in California. It was the only home I had ever known. I missed my friends, whom I had been in school with since the start. I missed being able to walk to the corner store, and hang out around commercial construction sites and climb walls and fences. I missed being able to ride my bike everywhere. Riding a bike on a dirt country road was a damned tough proposition and not one that I liked at all. But I believe that anyone who finds themselves in a new place, regardless of their age, can’t help but be fascinated by what there is to see that is so fundamentally different from where they came from. Whether visiting or a new resident, we want to see, explore, and absorb all that is new, unique, and different to us. Not only do things often look different, but culturally they are different. Thus it was with hockey. The sport that meant so little to Californians had a lot more significance to the residents of a state that spends 5 months of the year under a blanket of snow and ice.

Yost Arena, home of the University of Michigan Wolverine hockey team, and quite likely the most elegant college hockey venue in use today.

Yost Arena, home of the University of Michigan Wolverine hockey team, and quite likely the most elegant college hockey venue in use today.

In the first Winter after we moved to Michigan, my dad bought tickets for he, myself, and my brother to attend what would be my first-ever hockey game: the University of Michigan Wolverines versus the Huskies of Michigan Technological University (which happens to be dear ole dads alma mater). My dad, being from Michigan, had grown up with hockey. Life and culture in California just didn’t provide the right opportunity to make the introduction to his kids. He was more of a football guy anyway.

The game was played in Yost Ice Arena, a classic old hockey “barn.” Built in 1926, Yost is a beautiful, commanding brick building on State Street in Ann Arbor and is, in my opinion, still the most incredible college hockey venue there is. I am actually a Michigan State University Spartan fan, but Munn Arena at MSU doesn’t hold a candle to Yost.

Munn Arena at Michigan State University.

Munn Arena at Michigan State University.

U-M has spent a lot of money in renovations of Yost over the years and I hope that they forever appreciate the history and atmosphere of this arena. When I close my eyes and imagine hockey, I see Yost.

Though time warped and tarnished, my memory of this first game is still the cornerstone in the wall of my love affair with hockey. Prior to that night I had never in my life seen first hand anyone skate like that. I had seen Olympic figure skating on TV. I have a vague recollection of the “Miracle on Ice” win in 1980, but I had never truly watched hockey, and what I saw was fast, hard-driving, fast stopping, incredible skating and action. I remember being completely in awe by the players’ ability to control a puck with a stick and to weave their way through the other players to attempt, and in some cases succeed, at scoring. I remember the feel of the air when the players first came out to warm up, their skates stirring up the cool air off the ice and how it wafted over you. Not cold per se, but just a refreshing, awakening cool kiss on the face. To reference back to the opening quote: hockey drew me in and it has never let me go.  Michigan Tech won that night. I have no idea the score. It was a big win. Not the game. The effect on me.

Yost Interior

Inside Yost Ice Arena. Note the classic lines of the old school arena architecture.

The next year, my dad bought season hockey tickets to U-M. For that first season our seats were near center ice and I grew to love the game more. I could not skate and continued to be amazed how players even stayed on their feet, let alone scored. In the second year of our season tickets however, our seats moved. This would prove to have another big effect on how I enjoy the game.  Our seats were moved to the end, home ice. We sat behind the net that U-M had to defend twice in the three periods of play. Now sitting at the 50-yard line of a football game may be the best location to view that game, but in my opinion end ice or the creases are the best places to watch hockey. Why? You can see the most ice, and with a hockey rink being 200 feet long you can still see the action at the other end. When you sit center ice, because of the boards, you lose almost 200 feet of playing surface on your side of the arena. Keeping in mind that the puck is played at ice level, and that a lot of play happens along the boards, I want to see maximum ice. And, as just an aside: in most professional arenas, on one side of the ice you have the player box obstructing your view and on the other side the penalty box obstructs the view. To this day, my preferred seating is in the end or in the crease even with the goal line.

Joe Louis Arena

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan: home of the Red Wings

After high school it was off to college. Life moved on. Life gets in the way. I didn’t get to hockey games like before, but I did have a new experience that continued the ascent. I went with a group of friends one night down to Detroit and Joe Louis Arena and watched the Detroit Red Wings play for the first time. The Joe felt like a huge place to watch a game compared to Yost. We sat up toward the top of the upper bowl. The atmosphere was electric. They served beer to you in your seat. The game was amazing. The hook sunk deeper.

College ended. The “real world” arrived. I went to work. I met and married the most amazing woman (she’s still hanging with me after almost 25 years). We started a family. We were poor. When you’re a young man with a young family and you make $21,000/year, you don’t have money for things like hockey games. Hell, we didn’t even go to movies. Rent….food…diapers…gas….repeat.  Then as life got better and I continued upward in my career path, we relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1995. Hockey fell away. New Mexico actually had a team, the IHL’s New Mexico Scorpions. They played at Tingley Coliseum, and nothing in Albuquerque is too far, but I never got there.  Life marched on.

In 1999, we returned to Michigan. While we loved New Mexico, it was far from home and family, and now with three children, we wanted to be near family. By time we returned to Michigan, my oldest, Nicholas, was 7. At the age of 7, one can appreciate the play of the game, kids start playing a lot younger than that. An hour away from our home, the city of Grand Rapids was home to the IHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. I decided to take Nicholas to a game.  We had a blast. It was like time had never passed for me. I was right back in the game and Nicholas enjoyed the game too.

Grand Rapids Griffins: primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings

Grand Rapids Griffins: primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings

But alas…remember how life gets in the way? When you have to drive an hour to see a game and when you work in law enforcement where you work many nights, weekends, and holidays, you have to plan to go to a game or it won’t happen. It didn’t happen. Oh, we thought about it. We talked about it. It just never happened. It was always, “oh we don’t have the time this weekend,” or “we need to put it in the budget,” etc.

As the 2007-08 hockey season ended, and with the Detroit Red Wings the 2008 Western Conference champs, I decided that I was done with not planning for and going to games. I realized that if I could plan my year’s worth of games in advance, then I could work my schedule around them and I wouldn’t forget.  That is how I became a Grand Rapids Griffins (now in the AHL and the Red Wings primary affiliate) season ticket holder. I buy a limited package, not the full season. I could never get that amount of time off of work, and with the cost of gas I would be a pauper driving the 154-mile round trip 40+ times a year. But 10 or 11 games?  That I can do; and I do.  Being able to regularly watch hockey again has been great. It is something that I look forward to each and every year. I anxiously await the arrival of each game, and chomp at the bit during the off-season. I have enjoyed being able to share the experience with my wife, my son, and my two daughters.  I have enjoyed taking friends and extended family members to games. I love the game and when I am able to share it, it is in a way an extension of that love to those I take.

Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Home of the Grand Rapids Griffins

Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Home of the Grand Rapids Griffins

I don’t limit myself to professional hockey, though. I love all hockey. When asked by a cousin a couple of years ago if I wanted to see her son play a game that was going to be near my home, I went. For family. For the game. I am proud of these kids who take the chance to play such a great sport. To put themselves out there in the quest to perhaps make their own dream come true. Once, while going to the local rink to skate, I found open skate cancelled due to a youth hockey tournament. I stayed and watched. It was great. With my older daughter in college, I finally managed just last week to get over and attend a college game with her. I will forever cherish any moment with any of my kids and hockey has been a great way to engage and enjoy their presence in my life. I hope that the memories of our games together last them a lifetime. They will me.

I even decided to learn to play the game. In 2013, at the age of 48, I joined a skills league. I could, and can, barely skate. Learning to skate backward was an ordeal for me. That’s not the point. I love the game and was determined that I would at least try to learn to play. I did. I loved it. Due to a problem with my hip and back, I have had to back off, but will I try again when I feel better? I might.

To me, hockey is more than all of this though. It is representative of many things. It is sensory: I love the feel of the cool air coming off the ice; the sound of skate scraping, the sight of shaved ice flying. It is seasonal: it represents the life that exists in winter, which to so many seems bleak; it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. It is something that I can only fumble with words to describe, and yet never really do it justice.  It’s like a huge bear hug. It grips me and squeezes the breath out of me, and yet I never want it to end.

“To play the game is good,

to win the game is better,

But to love the game is best of all.”

Oh how I love the game.

The Rise of Detroit

Forty-five plus years ago, Detroit began its rapid decline into becoming a real-life Gotham City. With the riots of the late 60’s, middle and upper-class Detroiters began to flee the city for the suburbs. As the suburbs grew and the city’s population declined, businesses also moved to the suburbs to be closer to their target audiences. Coleman Young assumed control of Detroit as its mayor in the 70’s and embarked on a long reign that pillaged the city coffers and bred corruption at all levels. Then in the late-70’s and early-80’s the auto industry struggled. As imported vehicles more aggressively marketed for the American consumer and the country faced recession, sales of American-built automobiles dropped, assembly lines slowed, workers lost their jobs. Entire blocks of the city’s residential neighborhoods became empty, abandoned, or badly run down.

The blight that is stereotypical of most peoples impressions of Detroit.

The blight that is stereotypical of most peoples impressions of Detroit.

Crime increased. Many abandoned homes burned in the infamous “Devil’s night” fires of the late-80’s and early-90’s. The population of this once great city dropped, first below one million, then below 900,000, and then below 800,000. With each population decline, there was a loss of government funding; funding needed to support the city infrastructure. Roads became pot-holed, sidewalks crumbled, empty lots became overgrown, and abandoned houses were left to crumble where they stood. Finally, Detroit filed for bankruptcy; the first major metropolitan city to do so. That case is still working its way through the courts.

Through it all, however, a determined core group of visionary businesspeople and residents fought to bring Detroit back. When the rest of us (myself included) thought that Detroit was deeply into a spiral that it would never break free of, this group held within their hearts three key tenets of motivation:  belief that Detroit could change; commitment to being an active part of that change; and hope that others would witness their efforts, see the benefit, and join the movement.

I was in Detroit this weekend. Those visionaries have much to be proud of. People with names like Karmanos, Ilitch, Gilbert, Hantz, Stroh, Ford…and the list goes on. They had a vision and they persevered over long years. They had ties to the community and refused to see it die. They trod bleak paths and swam difficult waters, but without a doubt Detroit is once again on the rise. Quite literally, a phoenix rising from the ashes.

One of the greatest names behind the resurgence of Detroit is Ilitch; Mike Ilitch to be precise. The founder and patriarch of the Little Caesar’s Pizza empire, Ilitch began his return to Detroit by bringing his company headquarters downtown. Purchasing and lavishly renovating the Fox Theatre on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, Ilitch launched a campaign to revitalize Detroit that continues to surge today.

Detroit may have the famous moniker “the Motor City,” but Detroit is a sports town, and much of its fingernail grip on the edge of the pit of despair and a large part of its climb out has been its sports. Who owns Detroit’s two most-storied sports franchises? The Ilitch Family.

Comerica Park: Home of the Detroit Tigers

Comerica Park: Home of the Detroit Tigers

To look at the story of the Detroit Tigers is to read the names of baseball history. Names like Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Hank Greenberg, and Denny McClain. Detroit is proud of their Tigers and proud of that history, and in the late-90’s Ilitch constructed Comerica Park, a shrine to that past and a temple to the Tigers’ future.   Built on Woodward, directly across the street from the Fox Theatre and the Little Caesar’s headquarters, Comerica Park became yet another foundation upon which Detroit would grow. Check out the Tigers at: http://www.detroit.tigers.mlb.com.

The Detroit Red Wings, is the second jewel in the Ilitch sports crown. One of the original six NHL hockey teams, the Red Wings currently hold court at Joe Louis Arena on Detroit’s river front. With an equally-storied past that includes the likes of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk, and Steve Yzerman, the Red Wings, too, will soon have a new home in what is being called District Detroit. The District Detroit will include a 20,000 seat hockey arena, and encompass 45 blocks of

The District Detroit: the latest sports and entertainment project.

The District Detroit: the latest sports and entertainment project.

entertainment and residential space. Also on Woodward Avenue, just across I-375 from Comerica Park, District Detroit will provide a continuous, walkable area tying the downtown sports and entertainment districts together. For more information on District Detroit: http://www.districtdetroit.com/  More on the Red Wings here: http://www.redwings.nhl.com.

Just down Woodward Avenue from District Detroit, Comerica Park, and the Fox Theater lies Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. Opened in 2002, Ford Field brought the Lions back to Detroit from Pontiac, Michigan where they had played in

Ford Field: Home of the Detroit Lions

Ford Field: Home of the Detroit Lions

the Silverdome for several years. With 65,000 seats for football (and expandable to just over 80,000 for other events), this state of the art arena was home to Super Bowl XL in 2006. With the Lions owned by the Ford family – yes, the automotive Ford’s – Ford Motor Corporation purchased the naming rights for the stadium, tying the team and the stadium back to the automotive legacy of the city.

http://www.detroitlions.com

On the water front in downtown Detroit stands a large building constructed of five glass towers. With the center tower clocking in at over 80-stories tall, it is the most visible building on the Detroit skyline. Built in the 1970’s, the Renaissance Center was supposed to be just that: the beginning of Detroit’s renaissance. It was not. The

The Renaissance Center

The Renaissance Center

city’s decline and struggles continued well beyond the construction of the “RenCen” as it is known. Fast forward 30+ years. The RenCen is now the home of General Motors headquarters. The center tower boasts a Marriott Hotel and the 82nd floor is a restaurant and lounge that slowly moves, so that if you spend an hour there, you will have an opportunity to view the 360 degree panorama that encompasses Detroit, and Windsor, Ontario, Canada across the Detroit River. The lower level of the building is home to shops and a food court. You can also walk around and view all the current GM car models that are spaced throughout the lower floor.

General Motors (and others) has also committed to renovating and cleaning up the Detroit water front. A beautiful river walk has been constructed. Along its length you will pass art, murals, natural areas, picnic areas, a carousel, and a marina. It passes through William Milliken State Park and continues on to Belle Isle. While walking, jogging, or biking the path one can watch pleasure boaters as well as great lakes freighters sail that waters of the Detroit River, either headed up to Lake Huron, or down to Lake Erie.

Downbound lakes freighter seen from Detroit river walk

Downbound lakes freighter seen from Detroit river walk

Carousel on Detroit River Walk

Carousel on Detroit River Walk

Three casino’s have made Detroit their home: the MGM Grand, the Greektown Casino, and the Motor City Casino. With their entertainment venues and their hotels, they, like the sports team and river walk, are giving people reasons to again come back to Detroit. People who will find that they just might love the city, and people whose money spent in the city continues to help the climb upward.

General Motors is not the only company to have brought their headquarters back to Detroit.  In 2003, Peter Karmanos, CEO and Founder of Compuware relocated his corporate headquarters downtown. Seven years later in 2010, Dan Gilbert brought his company, QuickenLoans, to Detroit also. Gilbert and QuickenLoans alone have committed over $1 Billion to improving Detroit, as a place to do business, a place to entertain, and a place to live.

Others are making differences in their own ways.  After years of decline, decay, and crime, Detroit now boasts over 45,000 vacant and abandoned buildings and lots. The vast majority of these are old residences. The neighborhoods where these homes stand are blighted. Even though people continue to live on many of the homes, they often live next to abandoned buildings, burned out building, and weedy, overgrown lots. These provide havens for those who would commit crimes and for drug use.  Enter John Hantz, President & CEO of The Hantz Group, a financial planning firm with multiple officers throughout Michigan. Hantz and many of his top executives choose to make Detroit their home. Everyday, they drive past these blighted areas, and from this an idea was born. To purchase vacant lots from the city, tear down abandoned homes if they existed on the lots, and plant trees. This would return vacant land to the tax rolls. It would clean up blight. It would beautify, and it would instill pride in neighborhoods again.

In Spring, 2014, with over 1,000 volunteers, Hantz Woodlands planted over 15,000 hardwood trees on Detroit’s east side.  http://www.hantzfarmsdetroit.com/

These examples are only a very few of the dozens of examples being set in Detroit each and every day. Members of the community working toward the purpose of rebuilding the community. They are succeeding. For the naysayers, such as I was until more recently, shame on us. Detroit is resilient and Detroit will overcome. They are proving it every single day.

News From Out on the Pond, September 10, 2014

pond hockey

“You should have seen the lake today…it was like a sheet of glass.”

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.

The 1980 USA Men's Olympic Gold Medal winning hockey team celebrates. Bob Suter, #20, is in the foreground. Suter died September 9 at the age of 57.

The 1980 USA Men’s Olympic Gold Medal winning hockey team celebrates. Bob Suter, #20, is in the foreground. Suter died September 9 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

Steve Moore

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.

sucker punch

The Bertuzzi Sucker Punch

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.

bertuzzi_todd_031004

Todd Bertuzzi tearfully apologizes to Steve Moore the day after his actions ended the NHL rookies career.

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.