Bertuzzi reinstated to NHL

Updated: August 10, 2005, 12:18 AM ET
Associated Press

Todd Bertuzzi

NEW YORK -- Todd Bertuzzi's NHL banishment is over, 17 months after his punch to the head of Colorado's Steve Moore.

Bertuzzi is allowed to play hockey again, Moore's injuries from the attack might make his return impossible.

The Vancouver Canucks forward was reinstated by commissioner Gary Bettman on Monday, nearly a year and a half after Bertuzzi's blindside punch left Moore with a broken neck and a murky playing future.

Bertuzzi invited to Olympic camp
Hockey Canada announced on Monday that forward Todd Bertuzzi has been added to Canada's Olympic Orientation camp roster.

Bertuzzi was invited to attend Team Canada's Men's Olympic Orientation camp in Vancouver and Kelowna, B.C., from Aug. 15-19. The final Olympic roster will not be decided until January.

Bertuzzi's suspension cost him a chance to play for Canada in the September 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the May 2005 IIHF World Hockey Championships.

"I'm glad the NHL has finally stepped in and put him back in the game and reinstated him," Wayne Gretzky, executive director of Team Canada, told TSN. "Nobody condones what Todd did. I'm sure he'd be the first one to tell you it was a mistake.

"But you know it's time to move forward. We will invite him to our training camp. He's an elite player and I expect him to have a great year and be part of Team Canada come February in Italy."

The IIHF also respected the NHL's suspension and would not let Bertuzzi play in Europe during the lockout.
-- news services

"I anticipate that there will be those who will say that Mr. Bertuzzi's 17-month suspension is inadequate," Bettman said in a statement. "I disagree."

Bertuzzi was suspended for the final 13 regular-season games of the 2003-04 season and the Stanley Cup playoffs. His punishment continued throughout last season's NHL lockout, which kept Bertuzzi from playing in the World Cup of Hockey last September and the past two world championships.

He also was barred from playing in any European league last season.

"In light of the unusual circumstances surrounding the 2004-05 season, it is appropriate to consider not only the significant impact the suspension has had on Mr. Bertuzzi's NHL career, but also the impact that the league's suspension has had on Mr. Bertuzzi's ability to play professional hockey anywhere during this time."

Bertuzzi and Moore met separately with Bettman for Bertuzzi's reinstatement hearing on April 26. The Vancouver right winger needed the commissioner's approval before being allowed back into the league.

"I find that the appropriate discipline to be imposed for Mr. Bertuzzi's conduct on March 8, 2004 is the suspension that has been served to date," Bettman said.

"Mr. Bertuzzi's actions were deserving of an appropriately harsh sanction," Bettman continued, describing the hit as going "beyond what could ever be considered acceptable behavior in the National Hockey League. Mr. Bertuzzi must be held responsible for the results of his actions, and the message must be delivered loudly and forcefully that the game will not tolerate this type of conduct."

The suspension cost Bertuzzi $501,926.39 in salary. He is due to earn more than $5.2 million from the Canucks in the upcoming season.

Bertuzzi broke his silence following his NHL reinstatement by posting a letter on the Vancouver Canucks' Web site on Tuesday.

"I want to take this opportunity to thank Canucks fans and the city of Vancouver for all of your kind wishes," Bertuzzi said. "Your support, coupled with that of my teammates, Canucks ownership, management and staff and my agent Pat Morris have been a great help in these very difficult times."

As per terms of his criminal probation, Bertuzzi will not be permitted to play against Moore. That may never come to pass, however -- as Moore is still feeling effects of the hit and wasn't re-signed by the Avalanche.

"He is quite disappointed, given he is unable to resume his NHL career and may never resume his NHL career," Tim Danson, the lawyer representing Moore, told The Canadian Press. "It's disappointing to him that Mr. Bertuzzi is able to resume his career at this particular time. Steve has an uncertain future. He's got health challenges to deal with.

"While he maintains a very positive attitude . . . at this point he really is in the hands of doctors who will have to make the determination whether or not he will be able to play again."

Moore's Denver attorney, Lee Foreman, didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

Bettman said in his summary statement, which consisted of 10 pages and nearly 5,000 words, that Bertuzzi's behavior will be watched closely this season.

"While I believe that reinstatement of Mr. Bertuzzi at this point in time is appropriate and consistent with a 'fresh start' for the 2005-06 season, I want to make it clear that any future acts by Mr. Bertuzzi involving a review for possible supplemental discipline will require an in-person hearing," Bettman said. "If discipline is to be imposed, Mr. Bertuzzi should understand that it will be more severe than might otherwise be the case for similar acts committed by other NHL players."

Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely for the hit that left Moore with a broken neck, a concussion and no guarantee that he'd still be a professional hockey player. With the Avalanche ahead 8-2 in the game, Bertuzzi grabbed Moore from behind, punched him on the side of his head and then landed on top of Moore, driving his head into the ice. The bloodied Colorado player was removed on a stretcher.

The attack was seen as retaliation for a hit Moore put on Vancouver star Markus Naslund that left the Canucks captain with a concussion and sidelined him for three games.

Bertuzzi first asked for his reinstatement hearing last December, around the time he pleaded guilty in a Vancouver court to criminal assault and was given a conditional discharge. After facing up to 18 months in prison, he was given a year's probation and sentenced to 80 hours of community service.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press