Vancouver police will investigate Todd Bertuzzi for his on-ice attack of Steve Moore, said British Columbia Solicitor General Rich Coleman on Tuesday.
"I have spoken to the chief of Vancouver (police) this morning," said Coleman Tuesday. "There is an ongoing investigation with regard to this incident."
Const. Sarah Bloor, a Vancouver police spokeswoman, revealed the investigation started after police received "several" public complaints.
"We have an obligation once a complaint is received to conduct an investigation into an incident of this nature," Bloor said.
"Regardless of the fact that this involves a player in the National Hockey League, this will be a routine assault investigation. Crown counsel will be responsible for making a decision as to whether or not anyone is charged."
Late in the third period of Monday's game, with the Colorado Avalanche beating the Vancouver Canucks 8-2, Bertuzzi punched Moore from behind and pushed him down to the ice. The Avalanche rookie fell face-first and lay motionless for several minutes in a pool of blood before being carried off on a stretcher.
According to the Avalanche, Moore has a fractured vertebra in his neck, a broken jaw and a concussion, plus facial cuts and scrapes. He will miss the rest of the season.
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The NHL suspended Bertuzzi indefinitely without pay. A disciplinary hearing is scheduled to take place Wednesday at the NHL's Toronto office.
A criminal charge could range from simple assault to assault causing bodily harm to aggravated assault. Maximum penalties range anywhere from six months for a summary conviction on simple assault to 14 years for aggravated assault
"For aggravated assault, you're basically looking at where someone wounds or maims or disfigures or endangers the life of someone," said Geoff Gaul of the Criminal Justice Branch.
It's not the first time Vancouver police have been involved in an on-ice incident: they also investigated and charged Marty McSorley, then with the Boston Bruins, after he hit then-Canuck enforcer Donald Brashear with a stick to the head in February 2000.
McSorley, suspended by the NHL for a year, was convicted of assault and given an 18-month conditional discharge plus probation.
While the focus is on Bertuzzi, Avalanche coach Tony Granato holds his Canuck counterpart Marc Crawford accountable for the violence that erupted between the two teams on Monday night.
"(Crawford's) responsible for their players and their actions," said a seething Granato.
"I'm going to stand up for my players," Granato explained.
"I didn't like the body language, and I didn't like the way he was standing there. I didn't like the way the whole thing transpired. There's no need for that."
Avs defenceman Derek Morris accused Crawford of laughing about the incident.
"The worst thing about it is their coach is over there laughing about it and that just shows the class of that guy," he said.
At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Canucks general manager Brian Burke said the team is thinking only about Moore's health now.
"The Canucks hope this young man makes a complete recovery," he said. "Initial medical reports are favourable. We wish Moore nothing but the best in terms of recovering from this injury."
He said that Bertuzzi was initially planning to attend the news conference with Burke, but was too distraught over the incident to show up.
"My player, Todd Bertuzzi, has my full backing," he said.
Burke added that Bertuzzi and other Canucks staff had tried to contact Moore to express their regrets at the situation.
Bad blood between the Canucks and Avalanche had been simmering since Moore's hit on Canucks captain Markus Naslund during a Feb. 16 game in Vancouver.
Replays appeared to show Moore swerving to hit Naslund on the side of the head with his elbow and shoulder.
The hit left Naslund bloodied and dazed. He needed 13 stitches to close cuts on his forehead and nose and missed three games with a concussion.
At the time, the Canucks were incensed by the hit, calling it a cheap shot at one of the game's best players.
Moore said he was just trying to do his job and not hurt Naslund.
The NHL opted not to take any action against Moore, but it was suspected that eventually the Canucks would.
After the Feb. 16 game, Canucks tough guy Brad May declared a bounty on Moore, but said after Monday's game that it shouldn't have escalated that far.
"This game took a life of its own; it shouldn't have," said May. "For two-and-a-half to three weeks there's been a lot of talk."
"It was an ugly incident and it really puts a damper on the whole game," said Avs captain Joe Sakic. "There's payback but that's not payback. That's going overboard.
"And I'm sure Todd feels bad right now about the result. No player wants to see somebody go down like that."
with files from Canadian Press