Bertuzzi presents his case for reinstatement

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

NEW YORK -- Todd Bertuzzi got his chance to tell the NHL why it should allow him to play hockey again.

Steve Moore, who might never play again because of the vicious hit Bertuzzi dealt him, believes the Vancouver Canucks forward hasn't sat out long enough.

Bertuzzi, who landed a blindside punch to Moore's head in a game nearly 14 months ago, had his long-awaited reinstatement hearing with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday. Yet the league is not going to rush into a decision on whether to let him back on the ice.

Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely following the hit on March 8, 2004. Moore, who was playing with the Colorado Avalanche, was left with a broken neck, a concussion and no guarantee that he'll be able to play professional hockey again.

"Because we think that Steve's recovery and rehabilitation is a very important factor in the commissioner's consideration, we've made it clear that unfortunately Steve is not where he would like to be medically," Moore's lawyer, Tim Danson, said outside the NHL offices in New York. "We have some serious obstacles ahead, and as a consequence it's our view that reinstatement at this time would be premature."

Moore stood by Danson but declined to answer any questions because the hearing is still unsettled -- as is a civil case he filed in Denver against Bertuzzi, the Canucks and several others involved with the team.

Bertuzzi and his agent, Pat Morris, eluded reporters before and after the hearing, which lasted between seven and eight hours.

Morris didn't immediately return calls to The Associated Press.

The NHL had two doctors present at the hearing as well as chief legal officer Bill Daly and league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.

Moore and Bertuzzi didn't have any contact with each other during Tuesday's proceedings. Bertuzzi went into the hearing first, followed by Moore, and then a return by Bertuzzi.

"At the conclusion of the hearing, Commissioner Bettman took the matter under advisement," Daly said in a statement. "There is no immediate timetable for a decision."

The players' association monitored the hearing via conference call from a procedural and fairness perspective and didn't have a role on behalf of either party.

"It was a very good and thorough hearing," Danson said. "It was a very serious hearing and we are very pleased by the process."

With the Avalanche ahead 8-2 in the game at Vancouver, 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 missed 13 regular-season games and seven others in the 2004 playoffs while losing nearly $502,000 in salary. He also was barred from playing in Europe by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

His return to the NHL is predicated on him being cleared by the commissioner. If not for the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, this meeting with Bettman likely would've taken place long ago.

Since there are no pressing deadlines, a decision could be put off until after a new collective bargaining agreement is reached with the players' association.

Bertuzzi first asked for his hearing in December around the time he pleaded guilty in a Vancouver court to criminal assault and was given a conditional discharge. He faced up to 18 months in prison.

He was not allowed to play in the World Cup of Hockey last September and is not on Canada's roster for the World Hockey Championship, which begins this week in Austria.

Moore is an unrestricted free agent after not being re-signed by the Avalanche.

He filed suit against Bertuzzi in Denver District Court in February seeking unspecified damages.

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