Todd Bertuzzi: From Superstar to Pariah

Once arguably the best power forward in the world, Todd Bertuzzi has settled in to the role of veteran winger with Detroit in the past few years.

Settled is perhaps the wrong word though. No player, perhaps ever, has taken to the ice with such a dark shadow cast over them and their career.

His now infamous attack on Steven Moore forever changed the Sudbury natives life and career – now 38, Bertuzzi’s story is perhaps the most compelling in the sport today.

Todd Bertuzzi

The image of Bertuzzi, sat alone sipping a bottle of Corona, at the end of the first episode of HBO’s NHL 24/7 has become almost iconic already. Like some bizarre microcosm of his life now. The superstar turned pariah.

Drafted 23rd overall by the New York Islanders in 1993, Bertuzzi played 192 games on Long Island before being traded to Vancouver in February 1998; just 4 days after his 23rd birthday.

The imposing Canadian established himself as an elite forward in British Columbia, registering 15 points in his first 22 games for the Canucks and scoring 25 goals or more for four straight years from 1999/00 to 2002/03. His 46 goal, 97 point effort in 2002/03 earned him an All Star berth and saw him finish fifth in NHL scoring.

I was lucky enough to witness Bertuzzi at his best in December 2003, when I saw Vancouver take on Calgary. The Flames were 4-1 winners that day; but the skill Bertuzzi had, and his chemistry with Markus Naslund, was breath taking.

What happened later that season sickened the hockey world though.

A heated rivalry developed between Vancouver and Colorado after Avs forward Steve Moore injured Naslund, with the animosity coming to a head on March 8th 2004 when Bertuzzi attacked Moore, punching him in the back of the head; severely injuring the Avs forward and effectively ending his career.

The NHL suspended Bertuzzi for the remainder of the season and the play-offs. With the suspension extending internationally, he was also banned from playing during the lockout in 2004/05.

The NHL reinstated Bertuzzi for the 2005/06 season, where he scored 25 goals and 71 points, but he was repeatedly heckled and booed by opposing fans and with Henrik and Daniel Sedin emerging as the teams new stars, he, and Naslund, began to slide down the clubs depth chart.

With legal proceedings filed in British Columbia, Ontario and Colorado, Bertuzzi’s play began to noticeably drop and many speculated that the incident had become an unwelcome distraction for the organisation as a whole. In June 2006 Bertuzzi was traded to Florida as part of the deal which brought Roberto Luongo to Vancouver.

Bertuzzi played just 7 games for the Panthers, scoring 1 goal and 6 points, before surgery on a herniated disc sidelining the veteran for 66 games. Whilst recovering, he was traded to Detroit.

The Red Wings made it to the Conference Final, with Bertuzzi recording 3 goals and 7 points in 16 games, before Detroit were eliminated by eventual Cup winners Anaheim.

Bertuzzi went on to join the Ducks as a free agent that summer, signing a two year deal in California. However the impending free agency of stars like Corey Perry and the return of Scott Niedermayer meant Bertuzzi was bought out after just one year.

He joined Calgary on a single year deal, scoring 15 goals and 44 points, before rejoining Detroit in the summer of 2009, where he has played more than 250 games during his second stint with the franchise.

Despite moving around North America, and going to the 2006 Olympics, one story has, understandably, followed him everywhere. It was announced in October that the court date between Moore and Bertuzzi and the Canuck’s had been set as September 8th 2014, signalling the beginning of another difficult chapter in the wingers life.

The incident with Moore still leads to great debate between fans, and is referenced periodically when other extreme incidents happen; such as the recent clash between Shawn Thornton and Brooks Orpik. For many, Bertuzzi will never be anything other more than a thug. But he was once a star, and whilst he may never hit those highs again or simply ‘forget’ about the Moore incident, doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance at some point?

Matt Cooke got his. After more than 1,100 games, in which he has scored 311 goals and 764 points, maybe it’s time Bertuzzi got one too.

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on December 17, 2013, in Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, NHL, Vancouver Canucks and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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