Bertuzzi receives conditional discharge, probation
After telling a B.C. court on Wednesday he was guilty of assaulting on-ice opponent Steven Moore, NHL hockey star Todd Bertuzzi was given a conditional discharge and a year's probation.
Bertuzzi will not be allowed to play in a game involving Moore during his probation. That may be a moot point, however, as Moore is without an NHL contract and still has health issues from the assault.
Bertuzzi was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service as a result of pleading guilty to the charge of assault causing bodily harm.
If these conditions are met, including keeping the peace and reporting to his probation officer when required, Bertuzzi will avoid a criminal record for his hit on Moore that left the former Colorado Avalanche player with neck damage.
Crown prosecutor Garth Loeppky told the court he was requesting a conditional discharge with no criminal record after Bertuzzi pled guilty earlier on Wednesday.
"I have concluded that the imposition of a discharge is not contrary to the public interest," said Judge Herb Weitzel.
The sentencing comes as a result of the Vancouver Canucks forward changing his plea, having said in a previous court appearance he would fight charges levied against him after he sucker-punched Moore.
"You pleaded not guilty in an earlier appearance. Now you enter a plea of guilty. Do you now wish to change the plea?" asked Judge Weitzel on Wednesday.
"Yes," Bertuzzi responded. "I plead guilty."
Lawyers for Moore asked for an adjournment so the Colorado player could fly to the city to deliver a victim impact statement in person, but Weitzel declined the request.
Instead, Weitzel said he was satisfied with having a statement read into the record by Moore's lawyers.
"If I'm ever able to play again, I would ask that Todd Bertuzzi never be permitted to play in any sporting activity I'm involved in," Moore said in the statement.
Moore has scheduled a news conference for 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday in Toronto.
A video-taped statement by Bertuzzi was also played in court at the sentencing.
"I certainly don't think of myself as a criminal. And what happened that night in March is not who I am," said the Canucks forward in the statement.
"If I can therefore take something positive from this incident, I hope it will go some way to making amends for what happened that night."
Bertuzzi also apologized to Moore and wished him a complete recovery.
Before the plea bargain, Bertuzzi faced a maximum of 18 months in prison.
On Mar. 8, Bertuzzi horrified hockey fans and enraged the media when he viciously attacked Moore from behind during a game between the Canucks and Colorado Avalanche.
For days, Canadians were bombarded with the image of Bertuzzi charging up the ice and grabbing Moore's sweater from behind before hitting him in the side of the head with a round-house punch.
The 245-pound Bertuzzi landed on top of Moore who fell to the ice face first and suffered three broken vertebrae in his neck and a concussion. It's not known if he'll play hockey again.
Three weeks before this incident, Moore knocked Canucks captain Markus Naslund out of a game with a hit that was not penalized. Naslund was sidelined for three games with a concussion as Moore became a marked man by the Canucks.
In his six-page statement, Moore described in detail how several Vancouver players threatened him verbally and told him they were going to get him.
The guilty plea could pave the way for the NHL to lift the indefinite ban it slapped on Bertuzzi. The suspension cost Bertuzzi more than $500,000 of his $6.8 million US salary.
The NHL's chief legal officer, Bill Daly, says league commissioner Gary Bettman is ready to talk to Bertuzzi if he requests a reinstatement hearing.
Even if the NHL lifts its ban, Bertuzzi could still have problems when trying to cross the border to play games in the United States, according to some legal experts.
A reinstatement would also clear the way for Bertuzzi to play in Europe during the NHL lockout. The International Ice Hockey Federation is honouring the NHL's suspension.
Bertuzzi could still face a possible civil suit from Moore.
Boston Bruins defenceman Marty McSorley was the last NHL player to be brought up on criminal charges for an on-ice incident.
In 2000, McSorley was convicted of assault and given an 18-month conditional discharge for knocking Canucks forward Donald Brashear in the head with his stick.