Bertuzzi: 'I wish that day never happened'
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Todd Bertuzzi was sorry about many things on Monday, but being allowed back into the NHL wasn't one of them.
Bertuzzi broke his silence nearly a year-and-a-half after his blindside punch to the head of Steve Moore left the Colorado forward with injuries that could be career-ending.
|“||I'm sure just like Steve Moore and his family, it's been difficult for both parties. I know I wish that day never happened. ”|
|— Todd Bertuzzi|
The Vancouver Canucks forward was reinstated last week by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and spoke Monday at an orientation camp for the Canadian Olympic team.
"I'm a firm believer in second chances, and if we're going to go through life not giving anyone second chances, what kind of life are we going to have?" Bertuzzi said. "People make mistakes in life. Unfortunately I was under the microscope and on TV when my mistake happened and if I'm going to sit here and keep getting ridiculed about it, how are we ever going to give someone a second chance to become better or to change situations?"
Bertuzzi missed the final 13 regular-season games in the 2003-04 season and the Canucks' first-round playoff loss. He wasn't allowed to play anywhere during last season's NHL lockout because of his punch that caused Moore to suffer a concussion and broken bones in his neck.
He hadn't made any public statements since two days after the March. 4, 2004, attack when he issued a tearful apology. Bertuzzi's only other comments during his 17-month suspension were made through his agent Pat Morris, and in a thank-you letter to fans that appeared on the Canucks' Web site last week.
"Today is a new beginning for me and my family," Bertuzzi said as he prepared to work out with fellow Olympic hopefuls. "There's no way I can change what happened in the past, but I'm going to do what I can to make sure my career and my life aren't defined by what happened on March 8, but rather by what I did before and, most importantly, what I do after."
Bertuzzi was joined Monday by Morris, Canucks general manager Dave Nonis, and Vancouver and Team Canada executive Steve Tambellini.
He wished Moore a speedy recovery and refuted reports that he hadn't attempted to apologize to Moore. Morris said Bertuzzi made more than 10 tries to reach Moore through the Avalanche, Moore's agent, and his lawyer.
"I was hoping for the opportunity to confront him and speak to him and his family and it has never come about," Bertuzzi. "You have to respect people's decisions on things, and some people forgive a lot easier than others and you just got to deal with it and move forward.
"I've made my attempts and am still going to try, but I can't change someone else's mind-set on me."
He also couldn't explain what happened that night on the ice.
With the Avalanche leading 8-2, Bertuzzi grabbed Moore from behind, punched him on the side of the head and then landed on top of him. Moore's head was driven into the ice, and Moore had to be carried off on a stretcher.
The attack was seen as retaliation for Moore's hit that left Vancouver captain Markus Naslund with a concussion that sidelined him for three games.
"If I could [explain it] I wouldn't be here," Bertuzzi said. "Trust me, I've been off for a long time and had a lot of sleepless nights trying to think of things but you know what? It happened. I can't go back and change what happened. The only thing I can do is come back even stronger, a better person off the ice and a better person on the ice."
In addition to missing the final 20 games of 2003-04, including playoffs, Bertuzzi lost $501,926.39 in salary and anything he could've earned overseas during the lockout.
"I'm sure just like Steve Moore and his family, it's been difficult for both parties. I know I wish that day never happened," he said. "It's been some tough times, but I've got good family and good friends and good peers in the league that have helped me get over the hump and move forward and come through it."
Bertuzzi, due to earn more than $5.2 million from the Canucks this upcoming season, still faces a civil lawsuit that was filed by Moore. He was also given a year's probation and sentenced to 80 hours of community service after pleading guilty in a Vancouver court to criminal assault and receiving a conditional discharge.
As part of the probation, Bertuzzi is not permitted to play against Moore.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press