TORONTO – Former Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford has been named in a lawsuit over Todd Bertuzzi’s infamous attack on Steve Moore and could be liable for millions if a judge decides the former player deserves compensation for his injury.
Moore originally filed the suit against Bertuzzi and the Canucks, seeking up to $38 million, and now court documents show that Moore has consented to naming Crawford as a third party in the case as well.
Bertuzzi sought to have Crawford included based on the claim that his NHL contract compelled him take orders from his coach.
“It was a term and condition of Bertuzzi’s employment with the Vancouver hockey club that he was to take direction from Crawford in all matters related to his role or function as a player,” court documents state.
Bertuzzi alleges Crawford urged him and his teammates during a March 2004 game against the Colorado Avalanche “to make (Moore) ‘pay the price’ ” for a hit against Vancouver captain Markus Naslund two weeks earlier.
Bertuzzi alleges his former coach was negligent and “knew or ought to have known that this was likely to result in injury to Moore.”
The allegations have not been proven in court.
If Moore wins the case, Bertuzzi wants Crawford to be partially on the hook for the damages and is also seeking costs to defend against the lawsuit.
Bertuzzi’s lawyer, Geoff Adair, would not comment on the latest twist in the case.
“We are not prepared to comment on matters before the court,” said Adair.
“We strong believe the fair and right thing to do is let the process play out in the courts.”
Court has heard that Crawford is expected to testify that he yelled at Bertuzzi to get off the ice before his infamous attack on Moore.
Bertuzzi stalked Moore from behind and tugged on the back of his jersey before sucker-punching him in the side of the head and driving his body down to the ice during the game.
Moore, a native of Windsor, Ont., was bleeding from his face as he was taken off the ice on a stretcher. He suffered a concussion and three fractured vertebrae in his neck and hasn’t played hockey since.
Bertuzzi, who now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, was suspended by the NHL and charged with assault causing bodily harm in June 2004 after a four-month investigation. He pleaded guilty, received a conditional discharge and was sentenced to probation and community service.
University of Alberta law professor Russell Brown said it may be difficult to prove in the civil case that hockey players are compelled to do anything their coaches demand.
“Todd Bertuzzi’s a big boy literally and figuratively, I can’t imagine that he would be found by a court to be contractually bound to do absolutely everything his coach tells him,” said Brown, who added the alleged command to “make him pay” isn’t a clear order.
“It’s fairly ambiguous, it could be, for example, to engage Moore in a fight,” he said.