TORONTO – Former Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford will testify he yelled at Todd Bertuzzi to get off the ice before his infamous attack on Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore, an Ontario court heard Friday.
The bombshell statement by lawyer Alan D’Silva, who represents the Canucks and their owners, shocked a pretrial hearing in Moore’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Bertuzzi and Orca Bay Hockey.
“That’s the first time I heard that,” said Master Ronald Dash, the judicial officer who presided over the hearing at the Superior Court of Justice.
Moore’s lawsuit stems from an NHL game between the Canucks and Avalanche on March 8, 2004, in which Bertuzzi grabbed Moore from behind, punched him in the head and landed on top of him.
Moore, a native of Windsor, Ont., suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a concussion and facial cuts. The 29-year-old hasn’t played since.
Bertuzzi, 32, was suspended by the NHL and charged with assault in June 2004 after a four-month investigation. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation and community service.
Court documents show Canucks general manager Dave Nonis recalled overhearing Crawford say “at some point” after the attack that he had ordered Bertuzzi to get off the ice.
But D’Silva said Friday that Crawford had mentioned it during the investigation into the assault – a claim that came as a big surprise to Moore’s lawyer, Tim Danson, who said it was not included in Crawford’s statement to police.
It was unclear when Crawford made the comments during the investigation and to whom.
The disclosure came on the heels of a claim by Bertuzzi, contained in court documents, that during the second intermission of the game, Crawford pointed to Moore’s name on a roster board and said, “he must pay the price” – an allegation D’Silva has called “scandalous.”
Crawford’s actions during the game came up in an Aug. 24, 2007, deposition given by Nonis during the discovery phase of Moore’s lawsuit.
“I recall Marc saying, at some point after the incident, that he had been yelling at Todd to get off the ice for quite some time,” Nonis said, according to the transcript.
Bertuzzi’s shift was “longer than it normally should be,” and coaches liked to keep shifts short, he added.
Nonis couldn’t recall when he heard Crawford say it, but that it wouldn’t have been “days or hours” after the incident, but more likely in the weeks following.
Bertuzzi now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, while Crawford is head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.
The prelude to the Bertuzzi-Moore incident came in a game on Feb. 16, 2004, when Moore delivered a hit to Canucks captain Markus Naslund that resulted in a concussion.
In his testimony last year, Nonis said he didn’t know if Crawford said anything to his team between the second and third periods on the night of the attack.
But he said Naslund and teammates Trevor Linden and Mattias Ohlund later told him that before the game, the coach “pointed to a number of players and said, ‘They got to pay the price tonight.”‘
In that testimony, Nonis went on to explain that his understanding of Crawford’s remark was that the coach meant his team had to make it “difficult for them to play. We’ve got to try to be, you know, hard on them.”
The discovery transcripts were part of Moore’s motion to amend his statement of claim from $15 million to $38 million.
The lawsuit against the Canucks and Bertuzzi deals largely with damages due to Moore’s lost income. None of the allegations in the lawsuit or the discovery examinations have been proven in court.
Friday’s hearing was to determine whether Orca Bay officials and Bertuzzi would have to take questions they had refused to answer during the discovery phase of the lawsuit.