TORONTO – Todd Bertuzzi felt he was expected to “fight someone” the night he attacked Steve Moore and said he would have been “challenged” by former Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford if nothing happened, according to court documents in Moore’s multi-million dollar lawsuit made public Tuesday.
Bertuzzi jumped Moore, then of the Colorado Avalanche, in the third period of a March 8, 2004 NHL game, punching him from behind and then falling on top of him.
“I think in general if I didn’t go out and do something, fight someone, it would have been a pretty long week for me,” Bertuzzi said, answering questions from defence lawyer Tim Danson.
Asked what that meant, he replied, “It means I would have heard about it from him. I would have been challenged the next day in a meeting.”
The comments are from transcripts of his testimony during the discovery phase of Moore’s lawsuit against Orca Bay Hockey, the former parent company of the Canucks, and Bertuzzi himself. Discovery interviews are routinely conducted before a case goes to trial.
The allegations in the testimony have not been proven in court.
Word leaked out earlier this month that the documents contained Bertuzzi’s allegation that Crawford pointed to Moore’s name on a roster board between the second and third periods of the night in question and said, “he must pay the price.”
The Canucks, however, said in a statement released earlier this month that at no time did the “organization or any of its management and employees, including former coach Mr. Crawford, encourage or promote ” the Bertuzzi-Moore incident.
Lawyers for Bertuzzi and Orca Bay had sought to have the separate discovery testimony of Bertuzzi and Canucks general manager Dave Nonis sealed. But Master Ronald Dash ruled against that request Monday and there no was appeal of that decision Tuesday, allowing them to become public.
The discovery transcripts are part of Moore’s motion seeking to amend his statement of claim from $15 million to $38 million.
In his testimony, Nonis said he didn’t know if Crawford said anything to his team between the second and third periods of the night of the attack. But he said Canucks players Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden and Mattias Ohlund later told him that the coach before the game, “pointed to a number of players and said that they must – ‘they got to pay the price tonight.”‘
“And my understanding is that it was before the game started,” Nonis continued. “And my understanding is that included a number of players on the Avalanche, including their star players, you know (Milan) Hejduk and (Joe) Sakic, and things that, I’m sure, coaches say on a regular basis.”
Nonis said he believed Moore was on the list and went on to explain that Crawford meant his team had to make it “difficult for them to play. We’ve got to try to be, you know, hard on them.”
Asked why Moore, a role player, was included, Nonis replied: “I don’t know.”
Danson asked Nonis whether a first-period fight between Moore and Canucks forward Matt Cooke, who appeared to get the worst of it, inflamed the situation leading up to Bertuzzi’s attack. The score was 5-0 Colorado after the first period, 6-2 after the second and 9-2 in the end.
“I have no knowledge whether or not the coaches were upset at the outcome of that fight,” said Nonis. “And if that was the case, they’d be upset every time Matt Cooke fought, because he may be the worst fighter in the history of the National Hockey League.”
Nonis later added that he heard Crawford saying that he tried to call Bertuzzi off the ice before the attack on Moore.
“I recall Mark saying, at some point after the incident, that he had been yelling at Todd to get off the ice for some time,” he said.
Bertuzzi, who now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, admitted that he was looking to drop the gloves on that shift.
“What I remember is coming in at him with another player on our team, on the far side of the boards, bumping into him. I remember skating with him all the way up the ice asking him to fight,” Bertuzzi said. “I asked him four, five, six, seven times to fight.”
Asked if he got angrier when Moore refused to engage him, Bertuzzi responded: ‘I just wanted to fight.”
Asked why, he said: “I think I just felt like fighting.”
Pressed on why he jumped Moore from behind rather than seeking a face-to-face altercation, Bertuzzi said: “Do I feel awful where everything is now? I feel horrible.”
While Bertuzzi said Crawford was “pissed off at everything that was going on,” and that the coach’s actions, “influenced him (Moore) being challenged by a lot of players,” he said at no point was there an specific instruction to go out and get Moore.
“There’s a difference between sending players out and knowing that once in a while that you have a job to do and whether it’s your description to do it,” Bertuzzi said. “I don’t recall him ever saying you must go out and do this.”