Avalanche fans voice disapproval, loudly
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.
“ Read into it. You're pretty intelligent. It is what it is. What am I going to do about it? ” — Todd Bertuzzi to reporters on being booed
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 desperately needed.
"We've prided ourselves with being prepared for each challenge that we face," Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. "We didn't do that."
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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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