VANCOUVER – Anaheim forward Todd Bertuzzi said that he plans to play for several more seasons despite his recent rash of injuries, adding things are going in the right direction right now for himself and the Ducks.
Bertuzzi spoke Tuesday before playing his former Vancouver teammates for the first time since he was traded in the summer of 2006. He said he didn’t contemplate retirement after back and knee injuries kept him out of all but 15 games last season.
“The past year and a half has been a little bit of a roller-coaster with the injuries, but at the same time I think I’ve still got a lot of gas left in the tank,” Bertuzzi said. “I think I can bring a lot to this Anaheim team when I’m healthy and I’m going well.”
Bertuzzi was still bothered by a bad back when he suffered a concussion Oct. 14 in a collision with Minnesota’s Derek Boogaard. He did not return until Nov. 21.
Injuries prevented Bertuzzi from playing against the Canucks while he was with Detroit and Florida, the team the Canucks traded him to in a blockbuster deal that included goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Bertuzzi played only seven games with the Panthers and skated in just 24 games with the Red Wings in the regular season and playoffs.
He entered Tuesday’s contest with five points in 10 games with the Ducks.
“Obviously, it takes a little bit of time right now coming off an injury,” said Bertuzzi. “But I feel things rounding up and I feel like I’ve got one, two, three, four or more (seasons) left in me.”
Bertuzzi got a subdued but warm response from Canucks fans when he took the ice Tuesday.
A larger crowd than usual gathered around the Ducks bench to welcome Bertuzzi as he skated out for the warmup.
Flashbulbs popped and fans pounded on the glass as Bertuzzi, wearing No. 4 instead of the 44 he wore in Vancouver, took the ice. There were low-decibel cheers when he was introduced as a Ducks starter and the first time he touched the puck.
However, Bertuzzi was largely ineffective, as were his teammates, as Vancouver downed the Ducks 4-0.
Bertuzzi did not discuss the lawsuits stemming from his on-ice attack on former Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore on March 8, 2004. Moore, who suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a concussion and facial injuries has not played since the incident.
Moore and his parents, citing nervous shock and mental distress, have filed the lawsuits in Ontario Superior Court. Bertuzzi was open to most other questions during a packed news conference.
“Obviously, I’m a little uncomfortable coming up and speaking in front of everyone,” he said. “To me personally, it’s a big deal just for myself (to return to play against the Canucks). I don’t think media-wise and attention-wise it’s that big of a deal.
“I think Wayne Gretzky being traded is a fairly big deal. It’s just something you expect when you come to Canada. Hockey is so important here.”
Bertuzzi said it was nice to walk through GM Place and recall his time in Vancouver.
“Looking at the board with all-star selections and the most exciting player (award) and seeing your name on there, it brought back a lot of pretty good memories,” he said. “I’ve got nothing but positives here.”
Bertuzzi was acquired by Vancouver from the New York Islanders during the 1997-98 season. He later starred alongside Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison on one of the league’s highest-scoring lines.
“It’s pretty neat to see where hockey is now and how you have all the (TV) stations and the radio stations and all the media coverage and all that,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see that I may have had a small part in contributing to that when I first came over here from the Island.”
Bertuzzi has never regained the form that saw him produce 97 points in 2002-03. But Anaheim general manager Brian Burke said he has had no second thoughts about signing him as a free agent with the defending Stanley Cup champions in the off-season.
The Ducks GM said the move was made for legitimate hockey reasons, rather than sentiment, after they had been together in Vancouver.
“We’re not in the business of being sentimental,” said Burke. “I felt that Todd Bertuzzi could help our hockey club. I’m very comfortable with the decision.”
Burke, who is also named in the legal action, also declined to discuss whatever might have happened lately in the Moore case, which is not expected to go to court for at least 18-24 months. According to reports, Bertuzzi has offered Moore $350,000 as a settlement but Moore rejected the offer.
“At some point, I think it’s going to be resolved,” said Burke. “That’ll be a good day for hockey in general – not just for Todd, not just for any of the teams involved. I think it’ll be a good day for you (media) folks to focus on something else and all of us in the NHL to focus on playing hockey.”
Burke, the NHL’s former head disciplinarian, said he still does not condone Bertuzzi’s actions that fateful night. Moore had injured Naslund with a shoulder to the head two games earlier.
“I cannot condone what happened that night, but I think what Todd meant to do was well-intentioned,” said Burke. “I don’t want anyone to misconstrue this. I’m not condoning what happened, but this is a guy who thought he was going to the aid of not just a teammate but his best friend and our best player.
“Everyone wishes they can turn the clock back – but they can’t.”
However, Bertuzzi is out to prove otherwise with his play on the ice.