Less than three weeks from a lengthy civil trial and after eight years of litigation, former NHL player Steve Moore has reached a settlement with Todd Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks, according to a lawyer for Bertuzzi.
Though reports on Tuesday said the deal was not done, Bertuzzi's lawyer Geoff Adair later told ESPN.com that the sides have reached a "firm and binding settlement" and the case is "settled in its totality."
However, Adair is the only one to say a deal has been reached.
Moore's lawyer Tim Danson would not comment Tuesday, even though he is usually more than willing to discuss matters with reporters and is quick to return phone calls.
TSN reported Wednesday that Mark Moore, Steve Moore's brother, said no agreement is in place.
“I got a text message from Steve last night and he’s very concerned,” TSN quoted Mark Moore as saying. “He says there is no deal yet and isn’t sure what to do about all the media speculation.
Moore is seeking $68 million in damages with a civil lawsuit, originally filed in 2006, scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 8.
A settlement would be a stunning development in light of the upcoming trial and after eight years of litigation.
It would mark the end of a 10-year saga through the Canadian justice system and preempts what would have been the most invasive foray by the courts into the operation of a professional sports league.
No less than NHL commissioner Gary Bettman faced the prospect of testifying and being cross-examined under oath.
"We are pleased that the resolution of this matter allows the parties to turn the page and look to the future," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday in an email.
Danson was sure to grill Bettman about the unspoken revenge culture of the NHL that ultimately ended Moore's hockey career and changed his life well beyond the game.
Moore, now 35, said in a March interview, just a day before the 10th anniversary of the incident, that the lawsuit was not so much about the money as being compensated for the loss of his dreams.
"I lost my entire career in my rookie year," Moore said. "I think any player put in that situation would do the same thing.
"I can't recover anything else. I can't recover my career, the experience of living out my dream from the time I was 2½ years old, of playing in the NHL."
Hence, the $68-million suit: $38 million in lost hockey wages, punitive and compensatory damages plus $30 million in lost wages from a post-hockey career. Moore has a Harvard degree, but claims his post-concussion syndrome is preventing him from getting any kind of work commensurate with an Ivy League education.
'Pay the price'
On March 8, 2004, Bertuzzi, then with the Canucks, jumped on Moore from behind 8:41 into the third period of a 9-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, driving Moore's body to the ice. Two more players piled on, one from each team. Moore lay motionless for 10 minutes before being taken off on a stretcher. He suffered three broken vertebrae and a concussion — and has not played hockey since.
Bertuzzi later claimed that Vancouver head coach Mark Crawford said in the dressing room during that game that Moore must "pay the price" for a hit he gave to Canucks captain Markus Naslund in a previous game.
Naslund missed three games as a result of that hit, but there was no penalty assessed because the referee considered it a legal check. Neither was there supplementary discipline upon further review by the NHL.
But the Canucks were not satisfied. Forward Brad May alleged there was a bounty on Moore's head. Bertuzzi reportedly called him a piece of s--t.
Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm. He was sentenced in December 2004 to one year of probation and 80 hours of community service. He was also suspended by the NHL, a ban that lasted 17 months due to the 2004-05 lockout.
And that was the end of it, until the civil suit was filed in 2006.
In the eight years since, through the ongoing court proceedings leading up to trial, it has been reported that the NHL has refused to pay Moore's disability payment unless he drops his suit, that Bertuzzi filed and dropped a counter-claim against Crawford, that Bertuzzi and the Canucks had a secret deal to share costs if they lost and that, early in the civil matter, there was a settlement discussion.
Adair casually asked if Bertuzzi could settle this for $1 million. When it came time for an actual offer, it was just $350,000.