A bloodied Steve Moore was attended to by an Avalanche trainer, then carted off on a stretcher after being punched by Todd Bertuzzi. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)
Three years later
Steve Moore still scarred by the Bertuzzi Incident
By Jesse Campigotto with files from Tom Harrington CBC Sports
So much has changed in hockey since Steve Moore found himself on the receiving end of one of the most notorious acts of violence in sports history. Just not for Steve Moore.
It was exactly three years ago — on the night of March 8, 2004 — when Moore, nearing the end of his first season as a Colorado Avalanche regular, was blindsided by the gloved right fist of the Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi during a game at Vancouver's GM Place.
Since The Punch, which left Moore with a cracked neck and Bertuzzi — indeed, hockey itself — with a fractured reputation, the NHL has undergone an overhaul affecting players, owners and fans alike.
There was the historic season-long work stoppage. The subsequent "re-launch" featuring new rules (Shootouts! No red-line!) designed to glitz up the game. The emergence of brilliant new stars in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. The unveiling of sleeker, lighter new revenue streams, er, jerseys.
But for Moore, who granted CBC News his first television interview since the Bertuzzi Incident for a segment that aired Wednesday on The National, little about his plight is different.
"A lot of people talk about moving on," Moore said from the quaint old arena of his high school alma mater, St. Michael's College in downtown Toronto. "Well, I am trying to, but I haven't been able to."
Struggling with physical limitations
Though Moore says his three fractured vertebrae have healed, the other major injury he suffered at the hand of Bertuzzi — a severe concussion — has rendered him unable to properly train for (much less play) the game at which he once earned a comfortable living.
"I do a little bit of everything, and I am very thankful that I can do that because for a long time I couldn't," said Moore, who at 28 should be in his athletic prime.
"It's just that when I really start to push it to where you get into serious conditioning, that's where I start to have problems."
Three years after being seriously injured by the Bertuzzi punch, Steve Moore is still struggling with life away from the ice. (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)
It's not just the lingering physical limitations that have prevented Moore from moving on. There's also the matter of his painfully slow $19-million lawsuit against Bertuzzi and the Canucks, which is still in the discovery stage, as well as a separate suit filed by his parents.
"I think it has been very difficult for them to see the success and have it taken away like that," Moore said.
While far from a superstar, Moore had indeed achieved a measure of success in the wildly competitive world of elite hockey, graduating from St. Michael's to Harvard University before debuting with the Avalanche during the 2001-02 season.
After stints in the minors, the limited but hard-working Moore seemed to have established himself as an NHL regular in 2003-04, even earning some time on the Avs' top line with superstars Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.
Can't 'regret that hit' that spurred retaliation
But it all began to unravel on Feb. 16, 2004, when, during a game in Denver, Moore collided at centre ice with an off-balance Markus Naslund, catching the Canucks' captain and best player with a blow to the head.
No penalty was called and the league deemed the hit not worthy of a suspension, but to some Moore had violated hockey's unwritten code against roughing up another team's star.
"I don't think I can possibly regret that hit. I mean, that's a clean hit, the ref said it was a clean hit, the NHL reviewed it and said it was a clean hit," Moore told CBC News.
A tearful Bertuzzi issued an apology to Moore at a news conference two days after rendering him unconscious. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
"It is a part of my game to play physical. It's what my coaches and my teammates expect me to do."
The Canucks were unsympathetic, and their threats of retribution came to a head during the third period of a game later that season in Vancouver.
Unsuccessful in his attempts to goad Moore into a fight, the six-foot-three, 242-pound Bertuzzi skated up behind his smaller adversary, grabbed a handful of jersey and used his free hand to knock Moore unconscious before piling atop the fallen player.
When the ensuing melee finally ceased, Moore was being carted off on a stretcher and Bertuzzi was on his way to receiving a lengthy suspension from the NHL.
Immediately cast as a villain by many in the court of public opinion, Bertuzzi offered a tearful public apology two days after the incident.
But the prepared mea culpa didn't satisfy Moore — who says Bertuzzi still hasn't contacted him — nor the police, and Bertuzzi was eventually found guilty of assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to a year's probation and 80 hours of community service.
Hard to watch Bertuzzi go to Olympics
The saga did irreparable damage to Bertuzzi's reputation, and it's worth noting that his career hasn't been the same since.
A 36- and 46-goal scorer in the two years prior, Bertuzzi managed just 25 upon his reinstatement last season with the Canucks before being shipped to Florida over the summer.
Plagued by a bad back that required surgery in November, Bertuzzi played just seven games for the Panthers before they unloaded him to the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline in late February.
Todd Bertuzzi was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL trade deadline last month. (Canadian Press)
Though Bertuzzi remains sidelined indefinitely, what still bothers Moore is that while he toils in obscurity, his assailant is back under the bright lights of the NHL — and making $5.3 million US this season.
"I think I have missed about 184-185 games up until this point and he has been playing for two years and I am still sitting here," Moore told CBC News.
Worse for Moore, Bertuzzi was selected in 2006 to play for Team Canada on sports' biggest stage at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
"When you are picking an Olympic team, you are picking people that represent your country and what your country is all about for the world to see," Moore said.
"My impression would be somebody like Sidney Crosby, that would be somebody who Canada would say, 'This is what we are all about.'"
The upcoming NHL playoffs may prove equally difficult for Moore. The Red Wings are among the league's best teams, and the addition of the hard-checking, soft-handed Bertuzzi could spark Detroit on a lengthy run to the Stanley Cup.
Meanwhile, all Moore can do is watch.
"It's hard to think of everything that went into [my hockey career], and the way it was taken away," he said. "It is hard to see someone go back and play while you sit."
More from Moore
On watching NHL games on television:
"It's sometimes tough to watch games at night and not really have any connection to it. It's such a different experience from living the life every single day. I mean, every minute has something to do with going to the game or coming back from the game, pre-game meals… and then nothing. It's pretty shocking to the system."
On the memory loss he says resulted from his concussion:
You think your memory is good and then somebody says, 'Boy, you used to have a pretty good memory.' And that is pretty tough, especially for somebody like me. I kind of prided myself on having a good memory. So it's tough when people say it's the opposite."
On whether he wants a private apology from Bertuzzi:
"I try not to judge people. I think the actions speak for themselves."
On whether his plight has changed his outlook on life:
"It has made me realize that you lean on the people around you more than you think you do. Especially when turbulent times come."
On how his doctors and therapists feel about a comeback:
"They've started to think that it's not too hopeful, but they haven't told me definitively that it's not happening, so I am still trying to make it happen."