Also, IIHF bans Canucks star from European play

Updated: December 17, 2004, 1:09 PM ET
Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Vancouver Canucks star Todd Bertuzzi may be on the verge of a plea bargain involving the assault charge he faces for sucker-punching Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore earlier this year, the Vancouver Province reported Friday.

Todd Bertuzzi

The two sides are very close to a deal, the newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources close to discussions between prosecutors and Bertuzzi's defense team.

Bertuzzi was charged with assault after slugging Moore from behind and driving his face into the ice during a loss to Colorado on March 8.

Moore was hospitalized with three fractured vertebrae, facial cuts, post-concussion symptoms and amnesia.

Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely by the NHL, missing 13 regular-season games and seven postseason games and losing nearly $502,000 in salary.

His trial is set for Jan. 17. Bertuzzi faces a maximum sentence of 18 months if convicted.

The courthouse is the same one where Marty McSorley was tried in 2000 for hitting Vancouver's Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon but received an 18-month conditional discharge, meaning no jail time and no criminal record after probation. The NHL suspended him for a year, ending his 17-year career.

Bertuzzi also could face a possible civil action from Moore, who has hired Toronto lawyer Tim Danson.

Meanwhile, the International Ice Hockey Federation on Friday barred Bertuzzi from playing in Europe.

"The violent nature of Mr. Bertuzzi's action with the severe injuries inflicted to the opposing player, as a result of his deliberate act, were regarded as an extremely serious violation of the rules, putting the sport into disrepute," the Switzerland-based IIHF said in a statement.

IIHF rules allow the governing body to ban players from competition on grounds of the sport's wider interests, and the federation denied Bertuzzi's application to play until his case was resolved in court. He can appeal the IIHF decision to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press