Most professional sports are rather strict when it comes to purposeful injury committed by one player towards another, hockey is historically not one of these sports. Kicking, hitting, and fighting among players is not uncommon, along with overenthusiastic fans getting into scuffles. While penalties, fines, and suspensions have increased over the years, player violence is still a deeply entrenched part of the game.
Over the years a number of criminal charges have been increasingly brought against both professional and amateur hockey players for their actions on the ice. One of the more memorable cases in recent years is the 2004 incident between Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore. Bertuzzi played for the Vancouver Canucks and Moore was a player for Colorado Avalanche. Moore was at the receiving end of a sucker-punch from Bertuzzi. It was a game filled with fights and Moore had already served a 5 minute penalty in the first period. It wasn’t until late in the third period that Bertuzzi landed his punch to the back of Moore’s head; Moore was then knocked unconscious for ten minutes ultimately leaving the ice on a stretcher. He ended up with fractured neck vertebrae in three places, cuts to the face, and a concussion.
The consequences for Bertuzzi’s actions were harsh. He was temporarily suspended by both the National Hockey League (NHL) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). Criminal charges followed with Bertuzzi pleading guilty to assault causing bodily harm as part of a plea deal for 80 hours community service and one year probation. It wasn’t over yet however, Moore filed a civil suit against Bertuzzi in 2005 which was eventually thrown out later that same year. Moore followed with another suit a year later against Bertuzzi, numerous delays and subsequent allegations have inhibited the procession of the case. It was just announced this October that the court date for the Moore/Bertuzzi trial would be September 8, 2014 with Moore seeking $38 million in damages.
The aftermath of these events have been felt across the NHL and it seems like players have begun to clean up the game. The Moore/Bertuzzi incident was the last on-ice confrontation to occur in the NHL that resulted in criminal charges and subsequent civil proceedings. After serving out his suspensions, Bertuzzi was able to return to the NHL and this upcoming season will be his fifth with the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for Steve Moore, the 2004 incident would be career-ending as he continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome and would never be cleared medically to participate in the league.