Wednesday, March 10

Bertuzzi On Ice

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.


Cameraguy said...

I can't understand why the Vancouver Police would even get involved at all. If they want to charge Bertuzzi for a sucker punch, I wonder this...
Will they start charging for every body-check? Because on the street, that's assault, too. I can't go walking down Kent Street, body-checking all passers-by against the boards of Dooley's, the DVA, or Radio Shack.
If they charge Bertuzzi, then they'll have to start charging every boxer who hits below the belt... Last time I checked, it's illegal to haul off and whack someone in the jewels when they're not expecting it.

Rob MacD said...

The police should get involved because a sucker punch has no place in hockey, just like a sucker punch, or a body check, has no place in everyday society. It was an action that should always live outside the realm of what is expected to occur when a hockey player steps onto the ice. A player can expect body checks, even slashing and, yes, fighting. But fighting in which both participants knowingly agree to.
The police should get involved because the punch had nothing to do with hockey, and everything to do with anger and retaliation. It was an assault. What Bertuzzi did is not a hockey issue. It's a 'premeditated violence against another person' issue. That it took place on the ice, during an NHL hockey game is co-incidental.
It is about 'expectation'. In boxing, punching below the belt is an accepted expectation that occurs every so often. If it's believed that the whacking in the jewels is premeditated, then the boxer gets reprimanded.
Getting bit on the ear is not a valid expectation for a boxer, and it should be considered an assault as well.

Blue said...

Good hockey does not require fighting and violence. Witness the Olympics and World Junior Ch'ships, the best hockey going. Who watches a regular season NHL game these days anyway? I haven't in years.
To hear the rush to defend is sickening. It is like only hockey players endure stress and emotion in their lives. But, they are the only ones allowed to resort to violence to deal with it. The rules of the game do allow for body contact, but it is clearly defined in the rules what is acceptable behaviour, as is defined in the law of the land what is acceptable behaviour. This is beyond acceptable, and society needs to take a stand against offensive and unacceptable behaviour. Except, if you want to see it continue to escalate for a few more years, and see even more outrageous behavior as common and everyday.
The jails of Canada are full of people who;
A Did not do it
B Did not mean to
A bounty was pronounced, and delivered.Save your sympathy for Cookes parents, family and Cooke himself. And hopefully, something will be done to start changing the goon hockey culture that is taught at the junior hockey level.

Derek Martin said...

Your typo 'flairing tempers' made me think maybe the NHL needs a Queer Eye makeover.

Hans said...

The problem is that the NHL punishes the perpetrator based on the results of the infraction rather than on the action itself. We see cheapshots and dirty play all the time that go unnoticed or unpunished. Only when someone is badly hurt is there an outcry. if Cook had turned around and smacked Bertuzzi, they both would have received off-setting penalties and everyone would have played on. But the original act was still illegal. Unfortunately for everyone, there was a freakish result to a relatively common attack. If the league starts punishing the illegal acts regularly, severely and uniformly, that will not only cut out the tragic results of freak incidents, but will tend to eliminate the illegal acts and the illegal conduct generally.

Rob MacD said...

Isn't the name of the victim Steven Moore, not Cook?
Hans, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say, except where you say that this incident was a "relatively common attack". The viciousness of this attack was anything but common.
Derek, I think we should leave the flairing tempers to the figure skaters.

Stephen said...

Your last paragraph about the cameras is a good example of how people love to hear about another's misfortune.
Did he get enough punishment? Sure he did. The media coverage and his new reputation is by far 10 times worse then any length of suspension.

Nils Ling said...

One part of the penalty Bertuzzi will receive that I haven't seen mentioned much is the loss of sponsorships. I'm not sure who he has contracts with, but if I'm Easton or CCM or McCain's Juice or whoever, I'm not so sure this is the guy I want holding my product. Maybe a mirror company: "Hi, I'm Todd Bertuzzi. When you absolutely, positively need to see what's coming up from behind you ..."
Bertuzzi stands to lose millions from this moment of insanity/stupidity/cowardice. And yet I still find it hard to feel sorry for him.
These people. They have it all. And all they have to do is NOT F*CK UP. I know, I know, it sounds easier than it is. But still. That's why we call them "heroes".