March 09, 2004

Hockey Rules

The Colorado Avalanche buried the Vancouver Canucks yesterday in a veritable cascade of delightful goal scoring that even the Computer Guy loved.

But in the third period, Todd Bertuzzi of the Canucks sucker-punched Steve Moore of the Avalanche from behind and drove him to the ice. Moore lay unconscious in a pool of blood for several minutes. The NHL suspended Bertuzzi pending a Wednesday-morning hearing; Bertuzzi's violence obviously went beyond even the forgiving rules of hockey. Or did it?

There are hockey rules, and then there are hockey rules. The former are written down somewhere in a little book that the officials memorize and (I'm assuming) swear a solemn oath to uphold when they don the officials' jersey. The latter are never cited chapter and verse, but every hockey player knows what they are. Todd Bertuzzi violated the former as a consequence of upholding the latter. And every hockey fan could see it coming.

On February 19, the Avs and Canucks played a game in which Steve Moore hit Canucks superstar and Sweden's second-best hockey player Markus Naslund hard enough to put him out of the lineup for three games with a concussion. Markus Naslund! According to the informal rules of hockey, you don't just go around giving guys like Markus Naslund concussions. That's almost as bad as if someone were to give Avalanche captain and all-around good guy Joe Sakic a concussion. Can you imagine it? The Avs would be out for blood. As were the Canucks on Monday.

This is one of the unwritten rules of hockey. You can fight, and you can injure people, but you can't do it like that. It's like pornography--you can't define it, but you know it when you see it. And that's why it's not written down. You just have to know hockey.

As the Avs and Canucks demonstrate, there are rules, and then there are rules. Not to mention all those customs, habits, routines, guidelines, laws, norms, standards, morals, and commandments that burden us all.

EDIT: It's now reported that Moore sustained a neck fracture. He's out for the rest of the season, and we don't know yet what the sequelae of his injury are.

Posted by Carey at March 9, 2004 09:15 PM

Yeah, but it was a legal hit on Naslund. This was assault. That was the crappiest play I've seen in a long while. Bertuzzi should be suspended from hockey for the rest of his life. What an ass.

Posted by: Ming Shui at March 9, 2004 09:42 PM

I can live with the illegal suckerpunch. It's the fact that, as far as I can tell, Bertuzzi immediately wrestled Moore to the ice that convinces me Bertuzzi was just trying to cause injury, and not start a fight.

I'm going to steal a line from Dave Sim, here: "You don't know [who you could take in a fight] until the fight is over. That's why it's called a fight." Fighting is part of hockey. As far as I can tell, this wasn't fighting. Legal hits are part of hockey. I'm not a rules expert, but I gather this was not a legal hit.

Sure, Bertuzzi wasn't out to break someone's neck, but it sure looks like he was trying to end someone's season.

Posted by: kodi at March 10, 2004 10:55 AM

Wore my Avs jersey to school today in honor of Steve Moore.

Posted by: Ming Shui at March 10, 2004 09:03 PM

Hackbart v Cincinnati Bengals should cover this one...

Posted by: Katherine at March 10, 2004 09:06 PM

Growing up as I did in Detroit, it's difficult for me to take the Avs side on anything. So I won't really start here.

I think what Bertuzzi did (oh, yeah, we in detroit are also overly fond of him or the Canucks, either) was worse. There are rules and there are rules; but there are cheap hits and there are cheap hits. A cheap hit that knocks out a skilled player for a few games is bad; and the instigator rule should be relaxed so that the players can get it out of their system without hurting their teams for games to come. But a cheap hit that lands a guy in the hospital and threatens his career and ends his season is another thing entirely.

Granted, things happen quick in a game, and it's obviously by Bertuzzi's reaction he didn't mean to do what he did. But I agree with the suspension and his having to re-apply to play next year. And if there is an upside to any of this, it's that the fantastic Colorado/Detroit showdown (no matter who wins) this May is that much more likely.

Posted by: Mike Murphy at March 12, 2004 10:43 AM

i agree. i love the game, but there are elements that really need to be wiped out. this was in my mind even worse than mcsoreley incident. i love bertuzzi and was looking forward to see him dress for canada in teh world cup, but i hope they suspend that guy for at least one season for what he did, if not more.

Posted by: superstring at March 15, 2004 04:53 AM