Anyone who saw the incident must agree that Todd Bertuzzi should be penalized for his actions. The question is, of course, to what extent.
Hockey is the toughest, most demanding team sport going. The challenge is this: how to let the game unfold in a competitive way without the rules getting too much in the way of the inherent physicality of the game?
Because it is such a tough, physical game, it's expected that tempers will flair on occasion. There must be strict and stern policies in place to ensure that the players understand the penalties for violations out of the ordinary; for flairing tempers. I believe that the NHL has, over the last number of years to, failed to adhere to, and enforce, these policies in any meaningful way.
It comes down to the basic philosophy of officiating. I think it's natural for the players to try to get away with whatever they're allowed to get away with. Because the league is too worried about the repercussions of over-enforcing even the basic rules of the game, sticks have been getting perpetually higher, constantly hovering around opponent's faces, forever hooking without getting penalized. Checking from behind that sometimes gets called, many times not.
If the most basic rules are being broken, unchallenged, then how in the world would the officials dare to enforce more flagrant fouls? I believe this is a mentality that has, subconsciously, entered into the game.
It all leads up to Todd Bertuzzi, on the losing end of a 9-2 game, losing his sense of reason momentarily and blind-side-sucker-punches the player who hurt his teammate a number of games ago. They both fall to the ice, others jump on, and it's a free-for-all of mayhem.
Yes, it was premeditated. Yes, it was wrong, and yes, he should be penalized severely. I think he should be suspended for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. I think he should get the same charges brought against him as were brought against McSorley a couple of years ago. He should not get jail time.
I blame Bertuzzi for doing what he did. But I also blame the NHL for allowing a game-atmosphere to exist in which such an action can enter into the mind of one of its players and be acted upon without thought of penalty. If it's a given before-hand that such an action would result in a year long suspension, the punch never would have happened.
Side note. I just watched the Bertuzzi apology on TSN. It's pretty clear that the guy is pretty devastated at what he did. The worst thing about the press conference though, was whenever the teary-eyed Bertuzzi moved his hand to wipe away a tear, a thousand cameras clicked, looking for tomorrow's newspaper photo. His hand goes down, silence from the cameras. Hand goes up to wipe his nose, a thousand clicking cameras. Hand down, silence. I found that sound to be sickeningly invasive, even in such a public forum as a press conference.