DENVER -- The puck went in. The music started up. The
Avalanche went crazy.
And then the booing began.
But there was no way Avalanche fans were going to let Bertuzzi's
first appearance on the ice slip by unnoticed. They had been
waiting a long time to let their new Public Enemy No. 1 know
exactly how they feel.
The Avalanche beat the Canucks 6-2, but the game will be
remembered mostly as the night Bertuzzi played his first game in
Denver since breaking Avalanche forward Steve Moore's neck.
Contrite? Apologetic? Relieved?
When it was over, Bertuzzi was none of the above.
"It is what it is," was all he would offer, time and again,
when asked for his thoughts on the evening.
Bertuzzi became a pariah in Denver for the cheap shot he
delivered on Moore in a game late in the 2003-04 season. On
Thursday night, the enmity could be seen and felt in every corner
of the Pepsi Center.
Two fans in prison jumpers with Bertuzzi's No. 44 on them
greeted the Vancouver forward during warmups and heckled him
through the glass. A few others wore neck braces to show support
for Moore. Next to them were a group of fans who wore
horizontal-striped prison uniforms and sat behind homemade
cardboard jail bars and a sign that said they were dressing up like
Bertuzzi for Halloween.
"I don't know if the reaction played a large role in the
outcome," Canucks center Trevor Linden said. "We knew it was
going to be like this. It was no secret."
One ugly moment, caught by a local TV cameraman, came when a fan
dumped a beer on a woman wearing a Bertuzzi uniform.
The most telling sequence, though, came after Colorado's first
goal, 2:37 into the first period. Joe Sakic scored and, with the
celebration in full force, the Canucks thought they'd sneak
Bertuzzi into the game.
Nobody missed it, though, when he climbed over the wall and onto
the ice. Boos drowned out the chorus of "Rock and Roll, Part II"
blaring through the sound system.
From there, the booing continued steadily -- every time Bertuzzi
came onto the ice, every time he came close to the puck and
especially when he got an assist on a third-period goal.
With the clock running down, the fans filled the arena with an
obscene chant about Bertuzzi. Only when he was knocked down by Ossi
Vaananen, then later hammered into the wall by Rob Blake, did
Bertuzzi's presence on the ice garner cheers.
"It is what it is," he said.
Moore is unsigned and still rehabilitating the broken neck he
received as retribution for a shot he took on Canucks forward
Markus Naslund. It is not known if Moore will be well enough to
resume his career.
Many Avalanche fans feel Bertuzzi should have received worse
than the 13-game suspension (plus playoffs) he got from the NHL and
the probation and community service meted out to him by the legal
system in British Columbia.
What they got on this night was still satisfying, though _ a
blowout of the Canucks and a win the Avalanche, who came in already
eight points behind Vancouver in the Northwest Division, felt they
"We've prided ourselves with being prepared for each challenge
that we face," Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. "We didn't do
The teams take a day off, then play another game Saturday, the
result of a rare scheduling quirk that has forced Vancouver to stay
in Denver for a long weekend.
Asked once again for his thoughts on the difficult stay in
Denver, Bertuzzi wasn't in a reflective mood.
"Read into it. You're pretty intelligent. It is what it is.
What am I going to do about it?" he said.