More than 10 years after the infamous hit from behind by National Hockey League (NHL) forward Todd Bertuzzi on a Colorado Avalanche rookie Steve Moore, a settlement in the lawsuit has been reached. Geoff Adair, who is lawyer for the NHL forward, confirmed that the case has been settled, however the terms of the settlement are confidential. While an agreement has been reached, it may take some time before all of the paperwork is officially signed. Moore’s lawyer, the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks, and Bertuzzi’s agent did not comment immediately following the announcement.
The settlement comes just three weeks prior to the start of the multimillion-dollar lawsuit. The civil trial was scheduled for September 8 and was predicted to be a lengthy process in addition to the eight years of litigation that have followed the hit.
On March 8, 2004, Bertuzzi, who was then with the Canucks, grabbed Moore from behind, punched him, and sent him head first into the ice. The hit resulted in a concussion and three fractured vertebrae, ending Moore’s career in an instant. Following the hit, Steve Moore was unable to play hockey due to his injuries, and filed a lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi in 2006 with the settlement deal reached eight years later.
Months after the hit, the Canucks forward pleaded guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm, and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and one year of probation. He also faced an NHL suspension, which lasted 17 months due to the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. Later, it became known that the former Vancouver Canucks coach, Marc Crawford, said that Moore had to “pay the price” for an open ice hit on the Canucks captain Markus Naslund on February 16, 2004.
The hit made by Moore was deemed legal, despite the concussion sustained by Naslund, causing him to miss three games as a result. Retaliation was expected the next time the two teams met on March 3, but with the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman present in the audience, there were no major incidents. During the following game on March 8, Moore was first challenged to a fight by a forward, Matt Cooke, which resulted in a draw. During the third period, Moore was challenged again, and when he chose to turn away, Bertuzzi skated up behind him and punched him. This created a pile up of players and once cleared, revealed Moore motionless and in a pool of blood.
This resulted in a separate lawsuit between Bertuzzi and Coach Crawford, with the forward claiming that he was contractually obliged to obey any orders Crawford may have given at the time, and therefore, the coach should be held liable for any legal damages Moore is awarded. Marc Crawford responded with a formal statement that Bertuzzi directly disobeyed the orders to get off the ice prior to the attack on Moore. The lawsuit was settled in 2011.
Steve Moore is now 35 years old and still has not recovered from the injuries, suffering from low energy and headaches. Although Moore was seeking for $68 million in damages, he has stated that the lawsuit was not about the money, but rather a compensation for the loss of his dreams.
Meanwhile, the suspension carried out by Bertuzzi during that season has cost him $502,000, but he was allowed to play and continue his career in the 2005-2006 season. Currently, Todd Bertuzzi is an unrestricted free agent, most recently playing with the Detroit Red Wings. As the settlement is reached in the Bertuzzi-Moore lawsuit, the National Hockey League deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, announced that the NHL is pleased with the resolution of the matter.
Commentary by Ivelina Kunina