Wednesday, August 17, 2005

 

Berger Fix...hockeybuzz coming along.....

Thank God for Howard Berger! I am out of my mind swamped these days...I am going crazy putting the finishing touches on the website and podcasting...The Fantasy Game is coming along amazingly well! I am entrenched in busy work etc...REMEMBER www.hockeybuzz.com is launching September 15. Howard will be a daily part of it along with other writers, players, agents, and media celebrities..the best of the best hockey has to offer...I am so fired up about it...we will be the most entertaining hockey place to kill some time!



BY HOWARD BERGER

The Fan-590 Radio, Toronto

I’ve had an overwhelming response through e-mails to the opinions I expressed on this site about the saga involving Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore. The vast majority of the messages were eloquent and full of emotion, as you might imagine. Sentiments were somewhat mixed, though slightly in favor of my stance that Bertuzzi is entitled to a second chance – from the NHL and from Steve Moore.

If there was confusion, it resulted from combining the aforementioned. A common thread seemed to be that Bertuzzi is not worthy of forgiveness from Moore because he didn’t serve a long enough suspension. Though I disagree with both, there is obvious merit to each argument. It remains my opinion, however, that they are separate issues. Bertuzzi has been so richly vilified primarily because of the injury Moore suffered. And, that’s understandable. A broken neck is not an ailment that many of us associate with hockey, as innately violent as the game can be.

It is my contention – however crass – that if Moore had somehow escaped serious injury (the result of almost every on-ice rhubarb), the incident would have been quickly lost in the maelstrom of combat that envelopes hockey on a nightly basis. I’m not saying I agree with that mentality, any more than I believe it’s acceptable that a baseball pitcher retaliates for a teammate being hit, by plunking an opposing player in the ribs with a fastball. But, the mentality is what it is. Hockey is a violent sport, fights occur (sometimes escalating into larger disputes), and we seem to watch with bemusement one night, before tuning in to another game the following night. That’s the usual pattern, anyway.

I’m old enough to remember the NHL of 30 years ago, when Bertuzzi-like incidents were sadly commonplace. The Philadelphia Flyers of the mid-1970s – “Broad Street Bullies” as they were known – used intimidation tactics as matter-of-factly as teams currently deploy the neutral-zone trap. With the slightest provocation, they would routinely surround cowering opponents like a pack of hungry wolves. On many nights, they did the provoking themselves. The results are evident to this day in the penalty totals of players like Dave Schultz, Bob Kelly, Don Saleski, Andre (Moose) Dupont and Jack McIlhargey. Before the Flyers emerged as a force in the league, the late-‘60s Boston Bruins of Derek Sanderson, Ted Green, Wayne Cashman, John McKenzie et al (a.k.a. the “Big Bad Bruins”) similarly pushed the envelope.

I have vague, but lingering memories of being at Maple Leaf Gardens as a nine-year-old in March, 1968, when the Flyers played a “home” game against the Bruins, several days after high winds had damaged the roof of the Philadelphia Spectrum. And I remember the gasps of horror from about 10,000 fans when Flyers’ defenseman Larry (Rock) Zeidel and Bruins’ pest Eddie Shack cut themselves to shreds about the face and neck in a stunning, stick-swinging battle that began in the centre-ice area and continued down the boards to the back of the south-end goal. Zeidel’s orange jersey and Shack’s white Boston uniform with the yellow piping on the shoulders were both drenched in blood.

What was missing in that brutal era of hockey was a broken neck. That’s what distinguished the Bertuzzi-Moore incident from other examples of players and/or teams seeking revenge on opponents. And don’t dupe yourself into believing that such mentality only exists in the mind of Todd Bertuzzi. It may not be quite as prevalent as it was in the pre-expansion era (before 1967), when teams played one another 14 times a season. But, the NHL of 2005-06 might have to keep an eye on the pattern re-developing, with divisional opponents scheduled to play eight times.

Hockey is policed in a much more sophisticated manner today than it was a generation ago, though I’ve never been a proponent of the one-man-judge-and-jury system currently in place (and that has nothing to do with Colin Campbell; I’d feel the same way with any person at the helm). The Bertuzzi-Moore episode (minus the broken neck) would not have caused even a stir in the 1970s, and would have been viewed less harshly today had Moore not suffered the serious injury.

The fact he did break a part of his neck is what created the firestorm, though it’s difficult to argue with those who contend that damage of this sort was inevitable, given hockey’s mentality. If that is why a number of you believe Bertuzzi was not properly disciplined by the NHL, I’m willing to listen. What I refuse to accept is the notion that if Bertuzzi were suspended for, say, two years, Moore would be more inclined to accept his apology. Even if that’s true, it’s apples and oranges. Moore is clearly the victim here, and I’m not trying to paint Bertuzzi with that brush. But, if Moore is rejecting Bertuzzi – as many of you suggest – because the suspension was too lenient, his anger should be directed at the NHL.

I firmly believe that Bertuzzi is genuinely horrified by the incident with Moore – again, primarily because he broke his opponent’s neck. You might say that’s irrelevant… that players should never assault an opponent from behind, regardless of the consequence, and I couldn’t agree more. Given the dire result of this incident, however, I don’t know why it’s so difficult to imagine that Bertuzzi is legitimately shaken by what happened. Wouldn’t any of us be?

It’s been pointed out that Moore is rejecting Bertuzzi’s advancements solely under advice from his civil-suit lawyers. While that may be technically true, I have never gained the impression from listening to and/or watching Moore that he has even the slightest desire to embrace the Vancouver player. If it’s all strictly about legalities, then Moore and Bertuzzi are both accomplished actors. In this case, Moore doesn’t seem at all willing to forgive -- nor has he been from the outset – and that’s clearly his prerogative.

One day – civil earnings in hand, or not – I’m hoping he’ll have a change of heart.

E-mail address is howard.berger@rci.rogers.com.



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?